Why I am voting no on Measure BBB

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Eric Gray, who was a candidate for councilman in the 2nd District in 2016, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

Starting now and through election day, Long Beach voters get to decide whether to support or oppose Measure BBB.  This proposed charter amendment would expand term limits for both the Mayor and City Council from two terms (eight years) to three terms (12 years) and take away the option of a write-in approved by Long Beach voters in 1992 and reaffirmed in 2007.

Term limits first came into play in 1992 when then 4th District resident Dennis Carroll utilized his own funds to collect more than 23,870 signatures of registered voters to place Proposition G on the ballot to approve term limits.  Proposition G passed overwhelmingly. The L.A. Times then reported that Carroll had considered running for office but “was stopped by the large sums the council incumbents raised for their reelection campaigns.”  He said, “I was shocked by what was being spent. They were spending $50,000 to $100,000 for a part-time job.” He then said, “The incumbents have these tremendous advantages. They can mail things for free, and their special interests are already in place to support their campaigns.”

From my experience on this matter, Dennis Carroll was and still is correct.  Running for office is no easy task. It takes a lot of time, passion, dedication and money to win an election.  In Long Beach, most City Council races are won by the person who raises (or borrows) the most money and usually cost upward of $70,000.  Candidates work hard to utilize these funds to increase voter turnout by paying for campaign staff, office rent, lawn signs, voter sheets, phone plans and expensive mailers that land in voters’  mailboxes across the city.

With campaign contribution limits for a mayoral race of $800 and for each council race of $400, candidates need to raise hundreds of donations to even be viable.  Money from these donations come from friends, family, residents, small businesses, and yes, special interest groups. The latter give  incredible amounts of money, not just directly to a candidate’s campaign but also to independent expenditures where there are unlimited contribution limits.

The outcome is that incumbents win a high percentage of the time.  In fact, in both the 2016 and 2018  Long Beach elections, incumbents won their re-elections every single time.

Write-ins, however, have had a very different outcome.  While it’s true a few popular elected officials won third terms as write-ins, others have not, and to this date, no elected official since the implementation of write-ins has sought a fourth term.

Serving public office is an honor and a privilege but should be won based on a more fair and equitable playing field.  It is not progressive to concentrate power at the top leaving new candidates with fresh ideas and energy to be at a major disadvantage.  Voting No on Measure BBB keeps two terms with an opportunity for an elected official who has proven to do right by the voters to win a challenging write-in campaign.

Vote NO on Measure BBB.

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