After two weeks in New Zealand where I spoke at the Global Speakers Summit, I’m home. I believe that one should see the world to better understand one’s home. Touring the north island of New Zealand was an eye-opening experience on multi-culturalism. It is a country that is 73% European, 12% Maori and 15% other (mostly Indian is my guess), where the acceptance of, and hospitality towards immigrants and tourists is stupendous.
My brother and I stayed in several different towns as we toured along the west coast from Auckland to Wellington and up the east coast. At one of these stays, we had a hotel staffer named Sergei. He was from Western Siberia and had emigrated to New Zealand in order to build a new life for himself. His was an inspiring story of self-motivation and hard work to rebuild a life in a foreign country.
I came across many people who were reinventing their lives. It seems that thinking globally is a truly Kiwi attitude and I found out why when we stopped at a glassblower’s gallery. The chatty saleswoman (who was of ‘a certain age’) shared with us that post-WWII when she was a young woman, the government and business community encouraged people to travel the world for two years. Industry considered two years of world travel as an appropriate resume line item that qualified one for priority in hiring. Coming from a good family that could afford to help her, she traveled extensively and as she put it, “It expanded my understanding of the world, and my country.”
Part of traveling is dealing with the changes, both expected and unexpected, that come with new situations. For example, I was driving on the left side for 5 days; in a right-hand drive car. I didn’t cause or get into any accidents, and I even parallel parked twice, but it was definitely an experience in realizing how much of my driving is done on autopilot. I am used to the turn signals being on the left, but that’s the wiper actuator on a right-hand drive car. I had a very clean windshield for the first two days.
It is the change in outlook though that I think was so valuable. Change is important as it keeps us on our toes. I was exceptionally alert as a driver my first three days driving because of the new situation. I believe that there is value in that. I was paying more attention to the road, and to the sights along it as a consequence.
Change is good and we need more of it in our society. I’m not the only one to think so either. There is a petition being circulated to impose term limits on our city council. This petition would put to the voters the question of whether or not to limit our councilmembers to 3 terms for a lifetime maximum of 12 years on the council. Mary Marlow, chair of the Santa Monica Transparency Project and current city councilmember Sue Himmelrich are the proponents.
The proposal would apply to current councilmembers so they would be limited to three more elections if I read it correctly. As a city, we have had quite the history of what were almost lifetime members on the council. I think this is a bad thing.
I know the argument in favor of long-serving members is that they have an institutional memory, that they “prevent” the lobbyists from taking over and controlling ‘freshman’ members. I’m not buying that. We have quite the extensive city bureaucracy to fulfill the role of ‘institutional memory’ and if the lobbyists have to work a bit harder for their money, so be it.
Every democracy needs fresh insights on a regular basis and we should make sure that happens with term limits. It was good enough for President George Washington to self-impose a voluntary term limit, but that was in the days when there was some honor left among government servants. These days it appears they will not self-limit, so we need to impose limits upon them.
It does not speak well of our servants that they do not have a regular rotation of leadership (the honorific of Mayor being excepted therefrom) and allow newer, underserved populations to put forth a representative on the council.
There’s really only one proper quote to close this column with, and it’s from Mark Twain of course, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra