Mom, Apple Pie and Term Limits CARROLL COUNTY

October 27, 1993

It used to be, to get elected in America, a politician had to speak out for Mom and apple pie. Today, politicians seem to think that favoring term limits is another requirement for getting and staying elected.

That is the only explanation for Westminster Councilman Damian Halstad's ill-conceived idea to limit the city's mayor and council to two consecutive terms. Mr. Halstad, a first-termer elected last May, argued that the city's political process would be opened up by limiting elected officials' tenure.

To support his contention, Mr. Halstad pointed out that in the five city elections during the past 20 years, only one incumbent was defeated. Moreover, whenever incumbents chose not to run, the races attracted more candidates.

Mr. Halstad's facts may be correct, but they don't lead to the conclusion that Westminster would benefit from term limits. Incumbency certainly has its advantages, particularly in keeping a politician's name before the public. But holding elected office in Westminster generally attracts more infamy than praise, particularly during these cynical times.

And, unlike U.S. senators and representatives who retain their seats by outspending all comers, Westminster's mayor and city council don't fill their campaign chests with fat donations from Political Action Committees. Challengers and incumbents seem to be on equal footing when it comes to the meager amounts they spend on city races.

Imposing term limits is not the way to increase Westminster's political participation, which waxes and wanes. When important issues are at stake or when people are dissatisfied with their elected leaders, more candidates file for elective office. At the moment, Westminster doesn't have an entrenched political clique that runs the city without regard for the residents' wishes.

Mr. Halstad's term-limits legislation died at the council's last meeting when his three fellow council members refused to second his proposal. They correctly believed that if Westminster's voters are unhappy with their elected representatives, they have appropriate avenues to express their displeasure. Namely, more residents will run for office, and others will resort to democracy's most effective term limit -- voting incumbents out of office.

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