Rethinking term limits Councilman's proposal should not be obscured by politics.

July 11, 1996

THOMAS W. REDMOND SR.'S proposal to limit members of the Anne Arundel County Council to three consecutive four-year terms, rather than the current two-term limit, is a step in the right direction. In fact, the Pasadena county councilman should propose eliminating altogether the misguided two-year-old experiment to impose arbitrary and inflexible term limits on county lawmakers.

Some observers think it is inappropriate for a Democratic council member to push an idea that might strengthen the hand of the Republican Party in the county. But the short-range political implications of his proposal are impossible to predict with certainty and only cloud the discussion of the more important long-term merits. How this measure affects council Chairwoman Diane Evans' chances of advancing to county executive, for instance, or its impact on any other politician's future, obscures TC the real issue: that term limits diminish the public's choices.

Term limits continue to be an ill-advised solution for dealing with unresponsive, entrenched-for-life politicians. Advocates promoted them as an antidote to cure what ails government. They curb incumbency, but they also prevent the electorate from retaining competent public officials.

Considering the difficult issues facing just about every level of government, we can't afford to have a constant flow of new lawmakers learning on the job. As with any other activity, experience counts. It is often forgotten that newly elected officials may be more apt to be manipulated by the bureaucracy than an incumbent who has learned how to outmaneuver unelected civil servants.

Term limits steal choices from voters, which may further alienate the electorate -- opposite the desired effect. Voters are empowered, not weakened, by the right to limit terms on a case-by-case, election-by-election basis. Instead of limiting council members to three terms, junk the entire policy of restricting length of service on the County Council. Let voters decide who is worthy of re-election.

Reasoned Mr. Redmond, "If you have a good council member, then people should be allowed to vote for them again." And again and again, we might add.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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