Come November 2022, Aliso Viejo’s voters may get to decide just how long their City Council members get to stay in office by setting a limit on how many terms they can serve.
Council members are expected to discuss on Wednesday if a measure capping officials to two consecutive four-year terms in office should be on the ballot next year.
This issue surfaced last summer when Tiffany Ackley, who is now the mayor, brought it before fellow council members.
“I called all 34 of the cities in Orange County and 25 have term limits. We are one of the very few that don’t,” she said at a City Council meeting in June last year.
At that meeting, council members directed city staff on a 3-2 vote to draft an initiative for the 2022 general election to amend the city code on term limits.
Next week, staff will facilitate that discussion during the open session portion of Wednesday’s meeting which will take place at 7 p.m. and can be watched live on the city’s website. Those who wish to comment may do so following the instructions on the agenda linked here.
City staff estimates that putting a term limit measure on the ballot would cost around $9,000.
The debate on term limits has popped up at the Orange County level, in other cities including Westminster and most recently led to city of Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez resigning from his position in March.
When Alvarez’s name popped up on the 2020 ballot he had already served two consecutive terms from 1996 to 2004 and then again from 2012 to 2020. The voters picked him for a third term in November, which an Orange County judge later ruled he was ineligible for in the first place.
Alvarez initially argued that the city’s switch to district elections made his bid a run for a new seat but ultimately chose not to appeal the decision leaving a spot vacant on the council. That seat was later filled by his colleagues, who appointed county employee Kathy Tavoularis.
Some voters, however, weren’t too excited about that call to appoint Tavoularis instead of holding a special election or selecting the candidate who received the second most votes.
A debate on how seats left vacant by elected officials should be filled has also played out in Irvine, Fullerton, Santa Ana and most recently in Costa Mesa where the City Council appointed Mayor John Stephens earlier this year.
Meanwhile in Aliso Viejo, city staff say there are generally two models on setting term limits: A two or three consecutive terms followed by a hiatus before a person is eligible to run again, or a limit on the number of terms a person can serve during their lifetime.
The council will consider a draft ordinance — subject to voter approval of the ballot measure — limiting an elected council member to two consecutive four-year terms followed by a two-year hiatus.
The deadline to submit a ballot measure to the county Registrar of Voters is Aug. 12, 2022.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.