'A bad idea whose time has come'

November 09, 1992

When it comes to term limits, University of Baltimore political science professor Pat Florestano put it best. Term limits, she said, "are a bad idea whose time has come."

Following 14 states that approved term limits for congressional representatives, 77 percent of Anne Arundel voters embraced this latest political fad by limiting County Council members to two four-year terms.

The limit applies retroactively, meaning veteran legislators David G. Boschert, Maureen Lamb and Virginia P. Clagett will be out the door in 1994. That is no big deal, since all three were expected to leave the council then anyway.

Why voters are so anxious to throw away their power to decide when their leaders should stay and when they should go is beyond us. People obviously feel term limits give them greater control, even though common sense should tell them they do just the opposite.

When they approved Question C, Anne Arundel voters weren't asking for protection from incumbents; they were asking for protection from themselves. They said, in essence, "Stop us, before we vote for these people again."

Voters have always had the power to kick bad politicians out of office. But term limits have become so politically correct that no one dares voice this simple truth.

Even Mr. Boschert and Mrs. Lamb -- the targets of Question C -- are praising term limits. Mr. Boschert went further, calling for term limits for state legislators.

We ought to remember, however, that while some legislators grow complacent or power-happy after a long tenure in office, others become better public servants as they gain experience. Think about Sen. Gerald Winegrad, D-Annapolis. You may not agree with his views, but no one can argue that 14 years in the General Assembly have diminished his enthusiasm or effectiveness on environmental issues.

Someday, when voters find themselves losing good legislators as they start gaining valuable experience, once again the people may decide to decide when a politician has outstayed his or her welcome. Until then, Anne Arundel citizens must not allow term limits to turn them into lazy voters.

Come 1994, the next local election season, it's still their responsibility to decide if the four council members who are eligible for re-election deserve to keep their jobs for four more years.

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