Category Archives: Term limits

An Easy Fix?

Tacoma, WA

Alex Hays recently submitted signatures for a ballot measure which will change the city government. The ballot measure proposes a strong mayor form of government. But he made a mistake.

But there was one mistake. In an effort to redraft the city charter, there was mix up and Hays accidentally removed a section of the charter that gives people the power to create initiatives and referendums. If passed, this initiative would take that power away from people in Tacoma.

“We reacted to the city’s request that we put together a different version. They wanted the entire charter reproduced. That made it a little harder to get right and unfortunately that created a chance for this mistake to occur,” said Hays.

Now the city is claiming nothing can be done.

Citizens signed this petition and the measure should appear as signed by citizens. However, if the city council sincerely wants to retain the initiative and referendum portion of the charter (and offer that choice to voters,) they can craft a ballot question that will do the same changes as the petition submitted by Hays, but include the initiative section of the charter. Then the ballot title should make clear what each charter amendment includes:

  • Strong mayor, tighter term limits, and no initiative and referendum.
  • Strong mayor, tighter term limits, and keep initiative and referendum.

The issue getting the highest number of votes would be approved, unless neither ballot question gets over 50% and no changes would be made. I hope the city council acts quickly to ensure voters have this option.

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, Initiative, Petition Drive, politicians, referendum, Term limits

Dispersed Power or Central Authority

Term limits is one of the most divisive political issues in existence. People love term limits or they hate term limits.

On one side we have supporters of term limits. They want citizen legislators, accountable officials, responsive government, and power dispersed into the hands of many to avoid authoritarian government. This is the citizenry, the general populace, republicans, democrats, greens, libertarians, about 75%-80% of everyday people support term limits.

On the other side of this divisive issue we have those who oppose term limits. They want aggressive legislators who know the system, legislators who answer to them, government that gives them advantages, and more time for their people in office. This is the elected few, the lobbyists, the two party establishment, a minority of about 15% who directly benefit from controlling legislation and tax dollars.

To be sure, there are some crossovers, citizens who oppose term limits and officials who support term limits. But between these two sides division is clear. People who want power dispersed, and people who want more time (always more time) in control.

The establishment opposes term limits by talking about voter choice and elections, they downplay the incumbent advantage and political machines. They claim every election people choose to keep electing the same candidates because they really love those candidates. In Kennesaw, Georgia we can see a typical example.

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Kennesaw Councilwoman Cris Eaton-Welsh said Thursday she won’t run for re-election, but she has three policy changes she wants to see before leaving at the end of the year.“My philosophy has always been that we’re never meant to be career politicians. That’s kind of what the country was founded on was part-time legislators. You’re supposed to come in, accomplish your job and groom someone else or encourage someone else and then move on,” Eaton-Welsh said.

Eaton-Welsh brought her proposal to Mayor Mark Mathews and the other council members Wednesday evening at a work session and received pushback from Mathews.

“You don’t think the voters already control that by leaving us in or taking us out of office?” Mathews asked Eaton-Welsh.

Eaton-Welsh said because incumbents are heavily favored in elections, “I really don’t think that they do.”

Mathews responded: “Wow.”

Mayor Mathews may be a great guy, but if he’s being honest and doesn’t think incumbents are heavily favored he’s out of touch with reality.

Term limits is very divisive, and it’s also very lopsided, voters support term limits by huge margins. If only politicians were in it for the people rather than the power.

 

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Filed under Ballot Question, charter amendment, pension, politicians, Term limits

Warren Michigan Term Limits, When the Mayor Won’t Let Go

The mayor in Warren Michigan, is trying to do an end run around voter approved term limits.

From Deadline Detroit:

This story begins in December 2014, in the political slumber between the Christmas and New Year holidays, when Warren City Attorney David Griem issued a dubious legal opinion. He claimed claimed a city charter amendment approved by voters in the 1990s, which limits officials to 12 years in an office (three 4-year terms),  is not what the electorate thought it was.

Their logic: At large council seats are different offices than ward council seats and the term limit clock counts separately if you were elected at large or in a ward.

Let’s look at the relevant section of the Warren city charter.

First council and mayor:

Sec. 4.1 – City officers. (a)The elective officers shall be the mayor, the seven council members, the clerk, and treasurer.

Sec. 5.1 – The city council.(a) The council shall consist of seven members, one of whom shall be the mayor pro-tem. There shall be five council districts and one at-large district established in the city. One member shall be elected from each of the five (5) council districts and two members shall be elected at-large. Each candidate for a city council district shall be a resident of the council district he or she seeks to represent. A city council member’s office is vacated if the member moves his or her residence outside of the council district that the member represents.

 

Next term limits:

Sec. 4.3 – Certain persons ineligible for city office. (d) A person shall not be eligible to hold the office of mayor, city council, city clerk or city treasurer for more than the greater of three (3) complete terms or twelve (12) years in that particular office. This provision shall be applied to commence with the term of office that took effect after the election on November 7, 1995.

Area reporter Chad Selwiski has done a great story on this issue, he writes:

Griem, a formerly prominent criminal defense attorney, claims that the city council operates as a bicameral legislature, similar to the distinct House and Senate chambers in Congress.

Yet, the council never meets or votes in separate sessions based on district council members vs. at-large council members.

“The words (bicameral legislature) are just not there,” the suit claims. “(The charter) repeatedly refers to a single office of city council, and there is nothing – nothing — in the charter to indicate the contrary.”

Read more here.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, Michigan Term Limits, politicians, Term limits

Term Limits, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan 11/04/2014 voters approved a term limits amendment to the city charter.

Petition TL_GR_2014

Text of the Petition:

To the City Clerk for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan: A proposal to amend the Grand Rapids City Charter, Title II; by adding a Section 5 (compilers paragraph 9.2) as follows: “No person shall be eligible for election as a City Commissioner of any Ward if that person has served as a City Commissioner of any Ward for two terms. No person shall be eligible for election as Mayor if that person has served as Mayor for two terms. A person is eligible to be a Ward City Commissioner for two terms and an additional two terms as the Mayor. Serving more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected shall be considered a term. This section only applies to the positions of Ward City Commissioner and of Mayor.” We, the undersigned qualified and registered electors, residents in the CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS, in the County of Kent, State of Michigan, respectfully petition for Initiation of charter amendment.

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, Michigan Term Limits, Petition Drive, Support These Campaigns!, Term limits

Business Leaders Tired of Fighting Citizens

Colorado’s legislature is on the attack. They have gotten the word from their lobbyist friends to gut the initiative process. We can’t go a single session without legislators deciding the citizens aren’t smart enough to decide issues for themselves.

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, politicians, Term limits

Many Good Ideas

Former libertarian party candidate for governor of Virgina Robert Sarvis suggested a list of citizen friendly solutions to our two party system’s lock on political power.

Instant runoff voting

Easier ballot access and equal treatment in ballot order

Non-partisan redistricting reform

Term limits

Larger representative bodies

Inclusive debates

 

 

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Power Over The Politicians

The SCOTUS recently heard arguments to overturn Proposition 106. “Proposition 106 amended the Arizona Constitution to create an independent redistricting commission to re-draw the state’s legislative and congressional district lines after every census.” The law is being challenged by the Arizona legislature. The legislature argues their power to gerrymander districts is protected by Article I, Section 4 of the federal Constitution, which reads, in part: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for … Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” Will the court uphold the right of citizens to legislate through the initiative process?

In 1995 the SCOTUS ruled citizens couldn’t term limit their state’s congressional delegation (U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton). The decision invalidated Congressional term limits provisions of 23 states.

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