Term limits: Fixing what ain't broke HOWARD COUNTY

October 02, 1992

Howard County Councilman Darrel Drown has come up with an interesting twist on an old adage. Instead of leaving well enough alone, the first-term Republican legislator wants to limit county council members to no more than three four-year terms.

The truth is, council members have seldom served more than three terms, and county residents have had no trouble throwing out elected officials they didn't like. Mr. Drown knows this. But that didn't stop him from spearheading a successful drive to place a term limitations initiative on the November ballot.

Mr. Drown's new adage seems to be, "If it ain't broke, fix it anyway."

Mr. Drown is wrong. As we've stated before, term limits are unnecessary and can prohibit the electorate from retaining experienced and worthy representatives.

The councilman argues that term limits would create a constant flow of citizen legislators, none of whom would be in office long enough to become the tools of special interests.

But Mr. Drown also concedes that history suggests none of this has been a problem in Howard County, where voters in 1990 turned out an incumbent county executive, a council member and three state legislators.

It is also worth noting that sometimes citizen legislators can be such neophytes as to be poor public servants. And when it

comes to being a tool of the bureaucracy, no one is more pliable than a newly elected official.

There's a bandwagon effect surrounding the drive for term limits that taps directly into the anti-incumbent fervor sweeping the nation. California, Colorado and Oklahoma have already approved term limits for state officials. Anne Arundel County residents are being asked to consider a measure similar to Howard's.

In Howard, it may be that some politicos are motivated by short-term goals when they support such initiatives. Certainly, term limits might give Republicans a better shot at breaking the Democrats' 3-2 majority on the County Council.

But the visceral appeal of term limits should be resisted. The record suggests that county residents don't need to be told how long their representatives can serve. They should serve as long as they are wanted. Citizens already have the power to limit terms every time they enter the voting booth.

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