Let’s Limit Term Limits

Voters in Grand Rapids approved a proposal Tuesday that limits the terms of our elected city representatives. My fellow citizens have in effect restricted my voting rights. Neither of my two city commissioners, Ruth Kelly and Rosalynn Bliss, can run again; my right to vote for them has now been taken away from me. They have both been effective leaders, and now they cannot serve as city commissioners once their current terms expire. Ever. Term limits are un-democratic.

We already have term limits: it’s called “losing the election.” Would that the term-limits proponents put as much effort into attracting and supporting new candidates as they did into passing term limits. But, proponents say, it’s just too hard to mount a campaign against an incumbent, and government needs “fresh faces” from time to time.

I understand that, but it doesn’t seem to me the problem warrants a lifetime ban on public office. So allow me to propose a compromise: What if we require officials to “sit out” a term after a certain number of years? After that, they’re eligible to run again. In other words, let’s limit term limits, so they don’t forever prohibit a talented official from seeking office again.

The amendment to the Grand Rapids city charter approved by the (slim) majority this week states, “No person shall be eligible for election as City Commissioner if they have served as City Commissioner for two terms, and no person shall be eligible for election as Mayor if they have served as Mayor for two terms.” What if we inserted, “unless their second term was followed by a full unserved term” [or words to that effect] ?

Let’s limit term limits, so they give newcomers a fighting chance but don’t permanently ban “the good guys/gals” from public service.


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