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Danville residents launch petition to impose term limits for Town Council

Citizen group seeks to limit council members to max of eight years

The time of Danville Town Council members being able to maintain their positions potentially in perpetuity is being challenged by a group of residents who have launched a campaign to impose term limits on the elected position.

Supporters of term limits have proposed that council members be only allowed to serve no more than two four-year terms. They are working to gather signatures from Danville residents on their initiative petition that would demand the council send the issue to voters on a future ballot.

A group of residents known only as "Danville Term Limits" argues that entrenched incumbents are too difficult for prospective challengers to dislodge. They say term limits will enable new faces with new ideas to take the council dais.

“History has shown that long-time incumbency delays progress, perpetuates old ideas, and results in a stagnated vision. Term limits will decisively put an end to 30-year incumbents and usher in new, vibrant leadership with fresh perspectives to improve our town, rather than continue with political ‘business as usual,’" Danville Term Limits proponents wrote on their website.

No sitting Town Council member has ever lost a re-election bid since Danville incorporated in 1982.

"The whole concept of term limits suggest that voters lack the ability to make educated choices and need to have their options further narrowed by eliminating some experienced candidates who have strong records to stand on," countered Danville's Mayor Robert Storer. "I believe our record on solid fiscal responsibility, no unfunded liabilities, town services, healthy finances, strong reserve accounts, well managed assets."

Collectively, the current Town Council possesses 57 years of experience leading the Danville town government.

This number is led by Councilman Newell Arnerich who has served on the council for 23 years, followed by Vice Mayor Karen Stepper with 17 years, Mayor Storer with 10 years, Councilwoman Renee Morgan with seven and Councilwoman Lisa Blackwell with two years.

Prior to their election to the council, each member also possesses years of experience on various commission and advisory boards that help govern the town -- the exception being Stepper, who was elected directly to her seat but had prior service on the school board.

"Fact is, in an environment where state intervention and regulation is becomingly increasingly prevalent, there is some real value to experience, and qualified candidates should be eligible for consideration by voters based upon their qualifications, experience, historical knowledge and perspective in a town they represent," Storer added.

Term limits are not unprecedented in Tri-Valley governments.

While the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and San Ramon City Council do not contain term limits for their seats, San Ramon's mayor seat is restricted to a maximum of four two-year terms. Term limits are also in place in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore.

According to petitioners in Danville, a key argument is their hope that through rotating town leaders, more Danville residents will be encouraged to take on a leadership role, hopefully ensuring a fresh rotation of new ideas.

“In Danville, Town Council members have a combined Council/Commission service of 88 years,” petitioners said in a statement. “While some may argue that anyone can run for public office, it is extremely difficult to run against an incumbent and impossible to win.”

“Incumbents have significant campaign contributions from building their network after years -- in this case 24 or 20 (years) -- of being in power, they have name recognition, and they have a loyal following. Sadly, if a citizen is not part of the ‘following,’ he has no chance of serving on the Town Council. In fact, no incumbent has ever lost in the town of Danville,” they added.

Danville Term Limits proponents further say the selection of residents to the town’s various advisory boards and commissions, saying that unless a resident is an “insider” among established officials, they have little chance of being appointed by the council to serve on a governing board.

A notice of intention to circulate the petition was filed with the city clerk on Sept. 19 by Danville residents Melody Covay and Nasser Mirzai, according to Danville’s public information officer Geoff Gillete.

Residents may recognize Covay as a vocal opponent to the proposed Magee Preserve project, which Danville voters will vote on in 2020.

A ballot title and summary was provided on Oct. 2, starting the 180-day period in which proponents can circulate the petition. In order to qualify for the November 2020 ballot, the petition will need to contain valid signatures from 10% of registered Danville voters -- which comes out to approximately 3,007 signatures.

According to the official ballot summary prepared for the group by Danville city attorney Rob Ewing, if passed by voters “term limits would be prospective only, meaning that any time served on the Town Council by any individual prior to November 2020 would not count against the new limits.”

Petition supporters have said that opportunities will be made available to sign the petition at local stores as well as farmer’s market over the next couple of weeks -- volunteers will even come to residents homes if they are unable to attend a petition event. When announced specific locations can be found on the group’s website www.DanvilleTermLimits.com as well as its social media platforms.

The full ballot title and summary reads:

“AN INITIATIVE ESTABLISHING TERM LIMITS FOR MEMBERS OF THE DANVILLE TOWN COUNCIL

"The Danville Town Council consists of five members elected at large from the community for four-year terms. Council elections are held in November of even-numbered years, with three of the five seats voted upon at one election, two seats at the next election. There is no limit on the number of terms an individual may serve on the Town Council.

"While California law does not require term limits for councilmembers, it does provide a process for the voters of a city or town to enact such limits. Government Code Section 36502(b) provides that the voters in a city or town may establish term limits by majority vote at a regularly scheduled election. The law also provides that if term limits are approved by the voters, those limits shall apply prospectively only.

"The proposed initiative would amend the Danville Municipal Code to add a new section prohibiting any person from serving more than two, four-year terms on the Danville Town Council. Specifically, the initiative, if enacted, would do the following:

" *The initiative defines a ‘four-year term’ for a Councilmember as being an election or appointment to the Town Council for a term of more than two years. This means that if a vacancy arose on the Town Council between regular elections and the remaining term for that vacant position was more than two years, it would count as one of the two permitted terms for the individual filling the vacancy.

" *The limit of two four-year terms is a lifetime limit, meaning that once a person served two four-year terms (as defined above), whether or not those terms were consecutive, that individual could neither be elected nor appointed in the future to another term on the Town Council.

"*As required by Government Code Section 36502(b), the term limits would be prospective only, meaning that any time served on the Town Council by any individual prior to November 2020 would not count against the new limits.”

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Comments

66 people like this
Posted by Dr. Ralph Gunderson
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Finally! Someone had the great idea to break the cycle of career politicians in Danville. 30 years in control of Danville's money and decisions. This community has been handcuffed by special interests for decades. I think Arnerich has been running this town his way for the past three decades. I'm done with him and the rest of these folks who've been ignoring the rest of us who pay taxes here. Thanks to Nasser, Melodie and anyone else who has the guts to finally say (and DO) something that the rest of us have been too scared or weak to do. I will volunteer my efforts wherever needed. Looking forward to hearing about opportunities to help. Hopefully we can get rid of these current council members before they get another eight years!


57 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Oct 30, 2019 at 6:58 am

I am so happy to hear term limits are being set!
This country was founded and set up to be run "By the people, for the people." If congress has not taught us anything, it has surely taught us how corrupt things can get when the same people are allowed to remain in office. How can we grow as a society when the youth of this country are not allowed to be in office. Currently we end up with bitter old self seeking individuals who have forgotten they are public servants. I am happy Danville is setting the standard and honouring our forefathers who fought and died so that we may have a better life.


51 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on Oct 30, 2019 at 7:27 am

We should also seek term limits on SRVUSD board members. The current board does not have a single kid still going to school in the district. They are just warming the seats with no true checks and balances to insure are kids come first. They have hired the current administration and seek to just get along even if it involves the death of a student on campus. We need board members that are our voice not the voice of the administration.


25 people like this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Oct 30, 2019 at 8:22 am

In general, I am supportive of term limits, especially in congress. However, be careful for what one wishes for. If you look at voter turnout in Danville, it is usually low because voters are apathetic as the town is well run and fiscally sound. Look at San Ramon, Dublin, and other incorporated towns/cities for comparison. I can tell you, Danville didn't get where we are without hard work and some very dedicated individuals. My family has been here since 1955. We fought hard for incorporation in the 1970s to take zoning and decision making away from Martinez and make it local. Hard to believe but the measure failed multiple times before finally passing

If we do vote in term limits and have higher turnover in the city council, I hope those who run and get elected know what they are getting themselves into. My fear is they will have a single agenda (e.g. block Magee Preserve, block 5G, etc.) and not be willing to put in the effort on the other matters which aren't as visible but just as important.

It's always easy to point the finger at the incumbents, but not having sat in their seat it is not possible to fully comprehend all that the do.


43 people like this
Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Blackhawk
on Oct 30, 2019 at 1:12 pm

As someone born and raised in this area I always vote 100% of the time because I care about my area and the nation. Setting term limits ensures we get a fresh and innovative perspective in dealing with multiple issues and helps to prevent complacency and corruption in the long term. No more career politicians!


40 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 30, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Now if only term limits would be set for the San Ramon City Council. More than several members there have squatted there far too long. The S.R. city council consistently has turned a deaf ear to residents seeking to be heard at council meetings.


33 people like this
Posted by KellyGamble
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 30, 2019 at 11:41 pm

KellyGamble is a registered user.

This is long overdue. Looking forward to big leadership changes in Danville.


32 people like this
Posted by Roy
a resident of Danville
on Oct 31, 2019 at 8:33 am

Yes, finally. This NEEDS to happen for the good of Danville...


24 people like this
Posted by Yes on Danville Council Term Limits
a resident of Danville
on Oct 31, 2019 at 3:43 pm

Bravo and thanks to the organizers of this long-overdue initiative! Mayor Storer's comments expose just why this initiative is needed. Even though the initiative's passage by Town voters would allow him eight more years after that, he still isn't satisfied and opposes the initiative.

Help is needed to gather signatures! Please email danvilletermlimits@gmail.com to find out how you can assist. For example, there is a sign=up for residents to help at Lucky's this Saturday. All hands on deck!


22 people like this
Posted by Yes on Danville Term Limits
a resident of Danville
on Oct 31, 2019 at 3:48 pm

@Long Term Resident: You state that new Council members might "not be willing to put in the effort on the other matters which aren't as visible but just as important." I can tell you from personal knowledge that the current entrenched incumbents are not putting in the time to understand the crucial matters they are being asked to decide. That's a fact. They seem more interested in building up their political capital by being involved in non-government organizations and with individuals that can help keep them in office.


6 people like this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Nov 1, 2019 at 8:55 am

Yes on Danville Term Limits: There is a difference between facts and opinions. please state your facts and sources. One fact I am aware of is that the Danville Town Council has a "pay as you go" policy and, as a result, we are one of the only towns/cities in California without debt. Did you know that? Our police services are on 401Ks instead of unfunded pensions like Calpers. Did you know that?

Much of what you have stated is what I believe are your opinions and that's fine. Just don't portray them as facts.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Nov 1, 2019 at 11:20 am

Its quite obvious Long Term Resident that you are a council member.

We thank you for your service, but its time for someone else to take your place.


9 people like this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Nov 1, 2019 at 11:39 am

Resident: Sorry, once again time for a fact check. I am not a council member and have never been one. However, my family was good friends with John May, the very first Mayor of Danville. In addition, one of my family members was Danville Citizen of the Year for the work they did in helping shape this town into what it is. Needless to say, I have deep roots in this town and care a lot about it.

I find your suggestion and accusation insulting. Please present the facts and sources as I have requested.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Nov 1, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Thank you "Yes on Danville Council Term Limits"

I have signed up to help the the people regain control.


8 people like this
Posted by Doug Seph
a resident of Danville
on Nov 1, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Good news! You have to wonder why people like Arnerich and Stepper and Storer want to serve so long anyway? Little power trips I guess. I think Arnerich is genuinely a good guy but Storer is a jerk and Stepper is an idiot.


8 people like this
Posted by PWC
a resident of Danville
on Nov 2, 2019 at 9:30 am

We've lived in Danville since 1968, and I grew up in Lafayette. While there is no question that in some respects, Danville has been managed effectively, nothing good comes from an entrenched leadership. And it's sad that we have to resort to term limits to get the needed turnover in our elected officials. But it really is telling that the term limits proposal allows the current Council Members another EIGHT YEARS in office unless we vote them out! But if we, as citizens were bothering to act as citizens and actually go and vote, we most likely would have seen the needed turnover without the need to limit terms.


11 people like this
Posted by Dan D
a resident of Danville
on Nov 4, 2019 at 8:31 am

Safest and most fiscally responsible Town in CA. Beautiful downtown area with plenty of new parking drawing people from out of the area to spend their money. Yep, definitely time for term limits.

Magee Ranch people didn't like losing something even the Sierra Club endorsed. They will once again be PAYING out of the area people, who mislead voters, to get their position on the ballot. Some things never change.


5 people like this
Posted by Auntie Nepotism
a resident of Danville
on Nov 4, 2019 at 10:28 am

The sclerotic weasels on the town council violated agricultural zoning laws to illegally green-light "Magee Preserve." Bunch of glad-handing, self-promoting lightweights.


6 people like this
Posted by Virginia
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 4, 2019 at 11:52 am

Virginia is a registered user.

Long Term Resident: Danville’s police are on contract from the County Sheriff. They have pensions NOT 401k’s and the town is paying for those pensions as part of the contract. The rest of the regular Town staff have 401k’s.


2 people like this
Posted by Dave Day
a resident of Danville
on Nov 7, 2019 at 12:07 am

Where do I sign?


3 people like this
Posted by Danville Term Limits - The Official Initiative
a resident of Danville
on Nov 7, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Danville Term Limits - The Official Initiative is a registered user.

Come by on Saturday, November 9th, from 1PM - 4PM at 1101 Greenbrook Drive, Danville, to sign the petition to end limitless decades of the same incumbents. This initiative is to establish two, four-year terms (8 years total) for Town Council members. Thirty years of the same people in power is too long, whether you like the status quo or not. Career politicians are not good for the Town of Danville or for any city. Incumbents have never lost in Danville, so new voices will never be heard unless we fix the system. Newcomers cannot raise enough money to market and brand themselves, yet they can bring great experience to this important decision-making role in our community.

New Petition Sign-Up locations are offered on the website or you can contact DanvilleTermLimits@gmail.com and we will come to your home if you prefer (or you can come to one of ours).

Web Link

We need every single signature because they will try to invalidate as many as possible. The Council could have simply accepted this initiative, but instead they are making us collect 3,000 signatures, just to put this on the ballot for public vote in 2020. Thank you.


6 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Danville
on Nov 7, 2019 at 4:12 pm

ALL political positions should have term limits. For obvious reasons. It's commonly known as fresh blood.


Like this comment
Posted by Danville Term Limits - The Official Initiative
a resident of Danville
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:20 pm

Danville Term Limits - The Official Initiative is a registered user.

We've added another signing event this Sunday, November 10th, at Smart & Final - 460 Diablo Road, Danville, from 1PM - 4PM. We are looking for volunteers to help us gather signatures. Contact us at DanvilleTermLimits@gmail.com and check out our website at www.DanvilleTermLimits.com

Thanks!


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