Why I Support Term Limits


November 07, 1993|By DAMIAN L. HALSTAD

Term limits at all levels of government are an idea whose time has come, and one that I firmly support. I campaigned on term limits, I argued for term limits when I served on the county charter board, and I am no less committed to pursuing them on behalf of the city. . . .

I support term limits for several reasons. First, history has shown that when a politician serves too long in the same job he can sometimes lose patience, . . . become cynical or occasionally corrupt. New blood brings new energy, enthusiasm and new vision. And, if we can't accomplish what we set out to do in eight years on the council, we probably need a break, anyway. . . .

Second, our city citizens are less likely to run against incumbents than when there is an open seat. We as incumbents receive publicity, opportunities to speak, . . . and it is tough for an outsider or an unknown to compete. . . . Term limitations will encourage participation in government.

We need to encourage participation. I did a brief survey of our city elections over the last 20 years, from 1973 to present. It shows a very low turnover rate, and the greatest interest in our city elections when there are no incumbents running.

Third, term limits are popular; people want them. Term limits have passed in California, in Oklahoma and Colorado. The Baltimore Sun reports that 18 more states are preparing term-limit initiatives and a total of 40 are debating legislation. . . . Prince George's County recently limited terms of its County Council, Anne Arundel County did it by a vote of 77 percent to 23 percent and Howard County did it by a vote of 78 percent to 22 percent. Annapolis, Glenarden, Trappe, University Park and Highland Beach all limit terms of their mayor and council.

Finally, I can't find any downside to term limits. In fact, the only people I hear complaining about them are the politicians who refuse to give up their offices. . . . The worst that can be said about term limits are that they may be a wasted effort, because the council and mayor will probably move on after eight years anyway. I sit at this time with five very smart and dedicated people who will, in time, probably move on to other public offices. That being the case, we will simply have these term limits in place as a safety net, to prevent us from overstaying our welcome.

Even the founders of this country saw the utility of limiting terms. John Adams believed rotation in office would teach representatives "the great political virtues of humility, patience and moderation without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey." . . .

To the mayor and council, I ask that we make a contribution toward ending the cynicism that is directed at government. Let's show our city that politicians will gladly give up power and prestige when it's for the good of the people they represent.

The writer is a Westminster City Councilman. The above is excerpted from his testimony at a council meeting Oct. 25.

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