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L.A. Vote Boosts Term Limits

THE drive to limit politicians' terms is gathering momentum at the local level, reflecting a still strong throw-the-bums-out mood in America.

Los Angeles voters this week passed not one but two measures limiting the tenure of mayor, city council members, and other top city officials.

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Both set a two-term cap on new officeholders, but one also places limits on incumbents. The more stringent measure will take effect since it got slightly more votes. Both were approved by about two-thirds margins.

Los Angeles now joins a growing legion of cities - including Houston, Kansas City, Mo., San Antonio, Cincinnati, and Jacksonville, Fla. - that have limited terms.

Fifteen states have also capped the tenures of state lawmakers and congressional representatives.

"I think the Los Angeles vote is very symbolic," says Jeff Langan of US Term Limits, which backs such measures.

Advocates argue term limits bring new people to public office and discourage government from being run by "career politicians." Critics counter people should have the right to vote for someone as often as they want. Throwing out seasoned pols, they add, leaves government vulnerable to special interests.

Although term-limit backers claim the momentum, opponents haven't hoisted a white flag yet. "When there is a well-funded and well-organized campaign against them, term limits are not a sure thing," says Bruce Kozarsky of the Kamber Group, a Washington consulting firm.

The opposition was almost invisible in Los Angeles. The effect of the limits will not be: Since more than half the city council has served more than 10 years, there will be many new faces.

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