Bakersfield · Politics · View

Kern Co. term limits proposal shoots for fresh blood, new ideas

The recent Board of Supervisors’ discussion on term limits was a chapter right out of the Keystone Cops. Who’s on first?

Career politician Supervisor Zack Scrivner opined against term limits saying it would empower bureaucrats rather than elected officials. Really?

Our Board of Supervisors mainly rubber-stamp staff recommendations, especially those made by CAO Ryan Alsop. Scrivner need not worry about future supervisors under term limits being marginalized by county staff.

Scrivner’s reasoning is specious.

A more well-known and accepted argument against term limits is such limits cause inexperienced legislators to fall prey to special interests. There are special interests in Kern County, too. A supervisor must be vigilant by standing up to special interests when what they want conflicts with what is good for the taxpayers.

Scrivner also worried about detracting county voters from approving a 1-cent county sales tax increase in November, if competing term limit measures were on the ballot at the same time.

It was Scrinver himself who questioned the timing for a 1-cent county sales tax to be put on the ballot during a KGET-TV 17 debate against his two opponents in the primary election last month.

Curiously, Scrivner went ahead by voting to put this sales tax increase before the voters in November. A rose is a rose by any name.

This proposed county sales tax increase would amount to an actual 13 percent increase in the existing sales tax rate, according to a direct mail piece put out by the Central Valley Young Republicans IE Pac. The CVYR’s borrowed that 13 percent figure from the titular head of the Kern Republican Party, Cathy Abernathy, who opposed the same sales tax increase proposal four years ago. What will be her recommendation this time around? Scrinver is a political client of Abernathy’s powerhouse political consulting firm, Western Pacific Research.

In 2018, county voters soundly rejected that measure with 65 percent of the vote. Our Board of Supervisors recently voted 4-1 (David Couch voted no) to put it back on the ballot this November, only four years after being defeated overwhelmingly.

Couch put his two cents in the discussion declaring “at a minimum citizens should be allowed to vote to implement no term limits or an initiative allowing people to run again.”

Elected officials should not put ballot measures before the voters to counter citizen initiatives. This kind of tomfoolery is an insult to the people of Kern County.

Yet, Couch ended up ignoring his own words by voting with the rest of the supervisors to not take action on putting a rival measure before the voters in November. The vote was 5-0 vote. Why would Couch vote against the referral he made to County Counsel to bring back other term limit options?

Supervisor Leticia Perez rightly mused, “You wonder why people want term limits.”

California voters, with strong support from Republicans, passed Proposition 140, a citizens initiative, in 1990; this initiative imposed, among other things, a two-term limit on state legislators (Assembly and state Senate) and constitutional officers from the governor on down. Voters in this state were fed up with Assemblyman Willie Brown’s long reign as speaker. He was referred to as the Ayatollah of the Sate Assembly by proponents of Proposition 140.

By the end of his next term, Scrivner will have been on the Board of Supervisors for 16 years. He will have no trouble playing musical chairs by taking a termed-out Shannon Grove’s place in the state Senate.

I am generally opposed to term limits for elected officials but will make an exception by voting to require a two-term limit for Kern County Supervisors. We sorely need new blood, and new ideas on the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

This ballot measure received more than enough voter signatures to quality. A number of county unions led this effort. Don’t confuse the message with the messenger.

Mark Salvaggio is a political observer and former Bakersfield City Councilman.