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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

FIRST ROUND: David Levy 1, Palm Beach Gardens voters 0

Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor David Levy remains on the ballot for the March 15 municipal election per a Jan. 27 ruling by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser.

Levy is a 4-term incumbent who is running for reelection in defiance of a voter-approved term limits initiative limiting city council members to two terms in office and a separate voter-approved measure making the new law retroactive. The two measures passed in 2014 by 79% and 69% of the vote, respectively.

In running, Levy is making the novel case that since he resigned three months before the end of his term that he is no longer an incumbent. 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.

Importantly, Judge Sasser was not the first to do so either. In fact, she did not rule that Levy is eligible for the office. Instead, she dismissed the case against Levy because the person who challenged his eligibility to run apparently didn’t have the standing to do so.

Sid Dinerstein, the Palm Beach Gardens resident and voter who sued to prevent Levy from defying the new law, apparently does not have standing as he was not directly injured by Levy's action. Dinerstein's attorney argued that Dinerstein was a voter and since this was a voter initiative that was being defied, that Dinerstein should have standing.

The case is not over. If Levy wins the election, the suit will be re-launched and justice will surely be served. That's the good news.

The bad news is that due to Levy's arrogance an election may be botched, voters disenfranchised and significant taxpayers' monies wasted -- all in a vain attempt to retain a meager title and stipend.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Term Limits Convention: One down, 33 to Go!

In the end, it was nearly unanimous. With no 'nay' votes in the House at the end of January and perhaps three in the Senate yesterday, the Florida legislature approved the Term Limits Convention application with voice votes.

With this bipartisan vote, Florida became the first state to officially request an amendment convention limited to the issue of Congressional term limits under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

Under Article V, if two-thirds of the states request such a convention, Congress 'shall' call it. States will send delegates to craft the amendment and then it would be sent to the states for ratification by three-quarters of them, or 38.

The victory in Florida was a boost to the 12 other states with active Term Limits Convention campaigns under way. These are Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Special thanks to Florida Rep. Larry Metz and Sen. Aaron Bean for taking the lead as sponsors on these bills, attending to the committee battles and bringing them to successful final votes. 

Get involved! Sign up at www.termlimitsconvention.com.

Monday, January 25, 2016

ACTION ALERT: Term Limits Convention to get floor vote!

It is decision time.

Will Florida become the first state to officially apply for the Term Limits Convention to propose a constitutional amendment to reform the U.S. Congress?

We will find out this week, as HM 417 and SM 630 have passed all four of their committee hurdles and have been scheduled for a floor vote in the House. We expect quick successive votes on the measures, with the first on Wednesday or perhaps even sooner. (I will update this blog post as additional information is available.)

Your state reps need to hear from you today!  Go here to look up your reps and send them a quick email message urging them to vote 'yes' on the Term Limits Convention memorial HM 417 / SM 630.

There are currently Term Limits Convention campaigns in eight states, but Florida is positioned to be first across the finish line. This would be a victory in itself, but just as importantly it will give impetus to the seven other campaigns.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Term Limits Convention approved by House committee, Brevard REC

Rep. Matt Caldwell
It was a big day for the Term Limits Convention today, as the bill calling for the Article V amendment convention (HM 417) passed its second and last House committee and won a unanimous endorsement by the membership of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee.

The bill was approved in the House State Affairs Committee in a 14-3 vote, with chairman -- and dependable term limits advocate -- Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Fort Myers) presiding.

In the Senate, the TLC bill (SB 630) already passed two Senate committees late last year.

The TLC is now expected to see floor votes in both houses of the Florida legislature during the 2016 session which opened this week.

If it passes both chambers, Florida will be the first state to apply for amendment convention limited solely to the issue of Congressional term limits. Upon application of 34 states, Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires that Congress "shall" call the convention for the purpose of drafting the amendment. The resulting amendment must be ratified by 38 states.

The members of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee applaud the idea and, with a unanimous vote, became the third county Republican Party to officially endorse the Term Limits Convention at their January meeting. Chairman Barbara Davis led the vote of about 80 BREC members.

Previous resolutions in favor of the TLC passed with wide margins in Palm Beach and Volusia Counties in 2015.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Palm Beach Gardens: Your vote doesn't count unless the old guard wins

In spite of a new voter-approved term limits law that was approved by nearly 80 percent of the vote, 4-term incumbent Vice Mayor David Levy is running for his fifth consecutive election to the Palm Beach Gardens City Council. The 2014 law, which is retroactive, limits council members to two consecutive elections to the council.

City cronies are circling the wagons for Levy, as his city attorney and city clerk, Patricia Snider, are arguing Levy can place his name on the ballot in spite of the new law. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is permitting Levy's name to appear, saying it is up to the municipality -- that is, Snider -- to enforce its own election laws.

Levy's defense to irate voters is even more brazen. He is reportedly replying that if the voters don't like his illegal candidacy, he won't be able to win re-election.

In other words, the results of the 2014 elections didn't count and he is entitled to a do-over -- with different voters!

Levy's smugness about a do-over comes from the fact that he knows that March municipal elections attract a very low turnout, from some 7,000 in 2014 to as little as 3,000 in 2011. On the other hand, over 20,000 voted on the term limits law in the general election of 2014.

This is one key reason why municipal term limits are so important. Incumbents can turn out the vote of self-interested special interests in their districts and win repeated, lopsided elections as the bulk of the citizenry are busy taking care of their own lives, families and businesses. It is a classic case of the phenomenon of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs.

Levy's calculation -- based on the pre-term limits math of automatic victory -- is that even though law-abiding citizens won't like it, he'll win anyway. So, to hell with the voters. They probably won't even hear about the fraud until it is too late, if ever.

Please tell Palm Beach Gardens City Clerk Patricia Snider that she works for the voters of Palm Beach Gardens, not for David Levy and other longtime incumbents. She should respect the will of the voters and not place Levy's name on the ballot.

Send her an email by clicking here. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Palm Beach Gardens political math: 4 + 1 = 2 terms

That politicians can be shameless should be no surprise, but sometimes the brazenness of their efforts to hold on to their pedestals (and stipends) can still be jaw-dropping.

Case in point: Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor David Levy.

In Palm Beach Gardens in 2014, 79 percent of the voters in this northern Palm Beach County city approved a citizen initiative that limited city council members to two consecutive 3-year terms in office. At the same time, 68 percent of voters approved a second measure making the two-term limit retroactive. The message the voters were sending couldn't be any clearer.

Nonetheless, four-term council member and current vice mayor David Levy has just announced his candidacy for reelection to a fifth consecutive 3-year term.


Wait, there's more. When Palm Beach Gardens resident and term limits supporter Sid Dinerstein launched a legal complaint, Levy -- who won election in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013 -- feigned surprise. "I thought it was fairly clear I could run," he told the Palm Beach Post.
David Levy

Levy is backing his statement by pointing out that he took a few months off back in 2012 so therefore the 2010 election shouldn't count. The problem for Levy is that the Palm Beach Gardens law was written explicitly to prevent such chicanery. The operative language states that "no individual shall be elected to the office of council member for than two (2) consecutive full terms."

Often term limits laws are written to limit politicians to serving two full terms in office, which gives sleazy politicians a pretext for claiming -- a la Levy -- that if they resigned a month or two early they didn't serve their full terms and hence could run again. Not so in Palm Beach Gardens.

But perhaps we should grant Levy some small praise. He is, after all, providing a public service by demonstrating exactly why term limits were needed in Palm Beach Gardens in the first place.

Palm Beach County voters are welcome to send an email to urge Levy to respect the law that they petitioned and voted for and to leave the council with dignity.