Last week, I was asked about the candidacy of John Bowler to the Hermosa Beach City Council. The question was not why he would run, but what would he want to do this for again?
As opposed to Redondo Beach, where I served on the Council, Hermosa Beach has no term limits. (Redondo Council members are limited to two terms period. No sitting out and returning. It is a permanent limit.) John served over the same span of years as I did, 1993-2001, but chose not to run again. We got along well and I respected him for the straightforward way he approached the important issues then, such as what to do with lower Pier Avenue.
Experience in government is, frankly, a good and bad thing. I am personally opposed to term limits because, first, the people have the right to choose whomever they wish to represent them and, second, as we have seen in the State Legislature, rookie mistakes trump fresh faces nearly every time.
When Michael Bloomberg came into office as Mayor of New York in 2002, he decided that all of the people from the Giuliani administration were not going to return to work under him. It was not because they weren’t good people. It was because, as Bloomberg put it, “they know what isn’t going to work.”
Yet, eight years later, Bloomberg forced through a change in the New York term limits law to extend his tenancy in the office from two to three terms. Why? In part because he knew what wasn’t going to work. In his twelve years, Bloomberg has been able to see the results of his efforts and been responsible for them all along the way.
Experience in office is good because it provides you with perspective and enables you to build relationships which are necessary to get things done. It is bad because, at some point, one gets ossified in the office.
When people ask about my experience, I tell them that I probably would have run for one more term. By one’s second term, you really understand what options are laid out in front of you. You know who’s telling you the truth and who isn’t. You understand in detail the underpinnings of every decision, the budget. A third term would have been just right.
Why John wants to return is for him to expand upon. I believe him when he says that he sees things from the perspective of his experience and wants to help make them better. But, the decline of PCH is not going to be solved the way that lower Pier was. It remains to be seen whether the knowledge base is transferrable.
But, for those who say that he should be rejected because he had his chance and new people deserve a shot, I’d say, frankly, that knowing what doesn’t work may make the likelihood of success all that much greater. Wheel spinning wastes time, too.