Thursday, November 16, 2017

Term limits coming to Pompano Beach?

Even as self-serving council members in Palm Beach Gardens try to gut their voter-approved term limits, citizens in other South Florida cities move forward undaunted to try to improve their local representation with term limits.

Petitions are now being circulated to put 8-year term limits and other reforms on the November 2018 ballot in Pompano Beach, Fla. Pompano is a city of about 100,000 on the Atlantic ocean just north of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County.

The grassroots effort is sponsored by a local group of activists called Citizens for Good Government. To put the proposal on the ballot, they need 6,208 valid signatures by April 1. To reach this goal, the group has set a goal of 8,000 signed petitions.

The group has published a website and a Facebook page, so it is easy to find the campaign and get involved.

Registered voters in Pompano Beach are encouraged to request petitions from the new Pompano Beach Term Limits website to sign and get signed by family, friends and associates.

Important note: You can print and copy petitions yourself for circulation. But city regulations require that the petitions be printed on both sides of one sheet of paper. Two-page petitions will not be counted as valid.

The petitions have started circulating and the group has a couple hundred in hand. The group needs contributions and volunteers, quick!  Please forward this info to everyone you know in Pompano Beach.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

SELF-SERVING! Palm Beach Gardens council declares war on the 79%

Citizens in Palm Beach Gardens spent time, money and effort to put term limits on the ballot for the city council. Voters approved the measure with 79% of the vote in a general election in November 2014. It was a case of grass roots democracy for which the city can be proud.
The council, however, was furious and took the citizens to court -- and lost. Now the new council is working to put a new term limits measure on the ballot gutting the newly enacted term limits, making them the longest and weakest in the county.
Worse, since they know they cannot win an honest, straightforward vote, they aim to put the anti-term limits measure on the March 2018 ballot where it would appear all by itself. Whereas 20,000 people voted in the general election in November 2014, the council expects maybe 1,000 or even less to vote in March. 

PBG residents, please go here to send a quick email to the council and tell them:
Hands off our term limits!


*  Palm Beach Gardens has 6-year term limits, just as Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. West Palm Beach and Wellington have 8-year limits. The council is discussing 9- or even 12-year limits, making them the weakest term limits in the county.

*  Palm Beach Gardens city council is the second-highest paid council in the county. They are nominally paid about $30,000 -- but this figures balloons to $62,000 or more with all the perks and reimbursed expenses factored in -- for this part-time job. It includes an FRS pension too. Sadly, this is may be a key reason why council members are so adamant about retaining their positions.

*  The Palm Beach Gardens Charter warns against corrupt referendum shenanigans in Sec. 26-7(a) Calling of Election: “Except as otherwise provided in the law or city charter, an election issue shall be held in conjunction with a regular state, county or city election.” In spite of this clear direction, the council currently aims to place the referendum alone on the March ballot.

*  There has been no discussion of time already served of being counted under the proposed weaker limits. Hence, the new council may really pushing for 12-year (or even 15-year) limits for only themselves. This is a far, far cry from the 6-year limits that citizens proposed and approved with 79% of the vote.

*  Under the current six-year term limits, incumbents can sit out one term and then run again. That is, they are consecutive, not lifetime, limits.

*  Whereas the campaign to put the term limits measure on the ballot took time, money and hard work on behalf of citizens, the well-paid council can place the issue back on the ballot via an effortless vote, forcing citizens to sacrifice more time, money and hard work after winning handily as recently as 2014. And, yes, the council will be spending the citizens’ tax monies on a special election to thwart them.

The conflict of interest inherent in this new council-led anti-term limits proposal is clear as day. They have their seats and their new perks and they aim to keep them, voters be damned!

Friday, June 23, 2017


7th-year rep claims freshman status to evade 8-year term limit

The ugly hubris that accompanies entrenched power has been noted since human beings started taking notes. Here’s another card for the file:
In Tampa, 7th-year legislator Rep. James Grant is facing his last term in office under Florida’s 8-year term limits law. How is he choosing to finish out his public service?  By filing for re-election and throwing his hat in the ring for Speaker of the House.

No, I am not kidding.

In a case reminiscent of the veteran Palm Beach Gardens City Council member who resigned a few months early in order to restart his term limits clock, Rep. Grant is claiming that because of irregularities which led to a re-vote in his election in 2014, somehow he went back in time and became a freshman legislator.
That is particularly convenient as a meeting of all Republican freshmen is scheduled for Friday, June 30, in Orlando to choose a new speaker of the House for 2022-24. It is a secret meeting but the word is that 7th-year legislator Grant, class of 2010, will be there to cast a vote for himself.
If Rep. Grant wins, he will be dragging his party through the muck, as surely both controversy and litigation will dog their would-be leader from next Friday until he leaves office.  It will also be a slap in the face for voters who approved the 8-year term limits law by 77% back in 1992. Polls show there has been no diminution of support for the law since then.
In Palm Beach Gardens, the local political and media establishment initially circled the wagons around one of their own, offering circuitous technicalities to justify keeping power.  We are seeing this phenomenon to some degree with Rep. Grant as well, as a handful of his party colleagues and even some Tampa media are arguing for giving their golden boy a pass.
But courts are better at resisting group-think and political pressure.  In the Palm Beach Gardens case, the Fourth District Court of Appeals threw that politician out of office in June of last year.  There is no reason to expect the courts will afford Rep. Grant any special dispensation. In fact, U.S. Term limits does not know of any case in any state -- ever -- where a long-time state legislator busted a voter-approved term limit using this technicality.
(For nit-pickers, this is not a case of a freshman legislator being elected to a partial term via special election.  In such a case, Florida’s law does not count the partial term against the legislator’s term limit. The case here is that the re-election of a veteran, incumbent legislator was flubbed and a second vote was held a few months later. The election SNAFU hardly obviates his past consecutive years of service.)
But the sad truth is that justice will only prevail if voters raise their voices (and maybe eventually money for court fees) to object.  Rep. Grant is betting we won’t. Let’s prove him wrong by using THIS LINK to inform our own state reps what is going on.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Levy out! Citizens win 100% victory in Palm Beach Gardens

James D'Loughy
It is not an uncommon scenario: Citizens pass a simple term limits law and self-interested incumbents tie up the courts and murder the English language to protect their positions of meager power. Sometimes they'll force illegal elections and round up the local establishment and media to come to their aid.

The battles are fierce and often exciting but then when good guys finally win, it almost seems anti-climactic. Well, of course the good guys won. The law was so clear...

No! No! No!

When rogue 4-term Palm Beach Gardens Council member David Levy challenged the retroactive term limits law passed by some 70% of his fellow citizens by running for a fifth term, City Clerk Patricia Snider and even the county's Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher lawyered up and circled the wagons around him. Local media treated Levy's campaign as legitimate in spite of the unambiguous results of the 2014 election in favor of retroactive term limits.

The lower courts, too timid to enforce the law in this environment, allowed the election to go on and then, after it ended in a runoff, tried to broker a compromise solution between the local political establishment and the citizens of Palm Beach Gardens.

Sid Dinerstein
The local political bullies came close to winning a partial victory, allowing Levy to run for office for a fifth term. But thankfully two citizen heroes, lawyer James D'Loughy and plaintiff Sid Dinerstein wouldn't settle for that. They took the case to the Fourth District Court of Appeals where judges on Friday, June 24, ruled that -- surprise! -- the voters overwhelmingly approved term limits and made them retroactive and that 4-term incumbents like David Levy are not eligible to run unless they sit out a term first.

Yes, the law was clear but this victory for the citizens was by no means preordained. They won only because D'Loughy and Dinerstein insisted on fighting the corrupt local power until the citizens got 100% of what they voted for.

Yes, we can fight city hall. D'Loughy and Dinerstein proved it once again. So, if this happens in your town, you know what to do.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Judge smacks down David Levy, Palm Beach Gardens term limit scofflaw

Last we heard of David Levy, the 4-term incumbent Palm Beach Gardens vice mayor was battling in court to sneak around the popular new -- and retroactive -- term limits law in order to run for a fifth term. 

The Palm Beach Gardens term limit law and its retroactivity provision passed in 2014 by 79% and 69%, respectively.  In running in the March 15 municipal election, Levy made the novel case that since he resigned three months before the end of his term that he is no longer an incumbent. As I stated in a previous post on the subject, to my knowledge no court anywhere has permitted a politician to quit early and then immediately run for re-election to avoid a term limits law.

Palm Beach Gardens won't be the first.

In his May 18 decision, Judge Martin Colin stated without equivocation: "The court finds ... a candidate for City Council cannot seek reelection to a third, consecutive term after having been regularly elected to two terms regardless of any break in service." This is hardly surprising, as this is basically just a restatement of the term limits amendment itself.

But then why is David Levy's name still on the ballot? 

But then why is David Levy's name still on the ballot for the upcoming run-off election for a council seat against Carl W. Woods?

Interestingly, the judge found a technicality in the retroactivity provision that could be read -- although nobody did prior to the court case -- to have only one past term count against an incumbent running for reelection, not all of them. This would seemingly permit Levy to be elected to one more term. And, having proven his disrespect for the clear intent of the voters, it is a technicality that Levy aims to exploit. 

The offending article -- literally the article 'a' -- is found in the retroactivity provision of Section 4-1 of the city charter, the term limits law: "Service in a term of office which commenced prior to the effective date of any term limit enacted on council members will be credited against any term limitation approved by the Palm Beach Gardens electorate." The judge took this 'a' to mean 'one,' as it is a singular article.

Of course, 'a' does not necessary mean only one, as for example the article 'the' or the number 'one' would. Indeed, until the court case every participant in the election assumed as self evident that the provision made the term limits law fully retroactive. The amendment's authors intended it that way, it was sold to voters that way, voters understood they were voting for full retroactivity and even Levy in trying to gut the term limits law didn't immediately see this opportunity to attack the law. Instead he led with his absurd 'break in service' excuse.

It appears Judge Colin was willing to make this stretch to accommodate Levy as he did not want to overturn the results of the March 15 election. Call it a compromise.

But it might be a moot point anyway as Levy has to win the runoff election before he can be seated again. Even as a long-term incumbent, his victory is not certain. Levy squeaked out a plurality (6,642 votes) in the March 15 election against Carl Woods (6,256 votes) and Kevin Easton (1,103 votes). Easton dropped out, endorsing Woods against the scofflaw. The Palm Beach Post also has endorsed Woods, citing in part the term limits law.

So, the voters of Palm Beach Gardens have the opportunity to finish what they started in 2014 with the electoral blow for competitive elections, rotation in office and improved representation. Don't forget to vote!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sukhia solidifies his support for Congressional term limits

This blog took Congressional candidate Ken Sukhia to task in a recent post for apparent waffling on the issue of Congressional term limits. Since then Sukhia has clarified his position, making a bold commitment in favor of the popular reform by signing the U.S. Term Limits Congressional pledge.

The former federal prosecutor and GOP primary candidate for Florida's 2nd Congressional District put pen to paper and pledged to "cosponsor and vote for" the Congressional term limits amendment if elected to the Congress this year.

Sukhia is the 13th Congressional candidate in Florida to sign the pledge in 2016, a list which includes a primary opponent Mary Thomas. Thomas was first to sign and has been using the pledge to differentiate herself from the rest of the primary field.

Other primary opponents running for this open Panhandle seat include Jeff Moran and Neal Dunn, neither of whom have pledged support for Congressional term limits. To see the full list of signers in Florida, go here.

With support from large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents, most politicians claim to support term limits in some vague way and then take no action once elected.  However, pledge signers are genuine supporters of term limits who have specified exactly what action they will take on behalf of voters.

Activists are urged to present the USTL pledge to Congressional candidates.
If they sign, we'll do our best to let the voters in their districts know it. If they don't, well, we'll let them know that too.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The two faces of Ken Sukhia, candidate for Congressional permanence

It is an old, old story.

A politician or wannabe politician announces he is a staunch supporter of term limits in general, as he knows the lion's share of voters are. But he will quibble about some detail that allows him to be a opponent of any specific term limit proposal.

Thus, the politician can nod to his pro-term limits constituents and simultaneously wink at the anti-term limits lobbyists.

The latest exhibit in this dusty pantheon is former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia who is running in the Republican primary for Florida's 2nd Congressional district.

Here is Sukhia, captured on YouTube, dissembling before a would-be constituent.

Kudos to the voter who asked him the question about term limits. Let's keep popping the question to candidates at public meetings -- and posting the results. We need to hold these candidates accountable.