LESSONS FROM NYC: THREE TERMS -- OR FIVE?
In her quest to overturn West Palm Beach's voter-approved eight-year term limit, Mayor Lois Frankel has been using a page from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's playbook.
The NYC case is particularly egregious, since the voters had affirmed their support for eight-year term limits twice (in 1993 and 1996) before Mayor Bloomberg tossed them over. After internal polling showed voters would yet again affirm term limits again in 2008, Mayor Bloomberg -- who desperately wanted to serve a third term -- decided to simply ignore the earlier referenda and lengthened term limits for both the mayor and council members from 8 to 12 years via a simple council vote. Sound familiar?
In any case, the furor over Mayor Bloomberg's coup was so great that New York City is going to put a referendum on the ballot in November this year to revert to two-term, eight-year term limits.
But here's the rub: the new eight-year term limits would go into effect upon the public vote, which means that council members will be permitted to run for two more terms. In other words, future New York City Councils will be limited to two terms or eight years, per the public's clearly expressed wishes. However, the current council members -- many of which are in their third term due to Bloomberg's coup -- will be limited to five terms or 20 years in office!
Is the mayor of West Palm Beach plotting something similar? Perhaps not, but we want to be sure. Here's the language of the amendment to the city charter being circulated via petition:
"Sec. 2.02. -- Term and Compensation. The term of the office of the mayor shall be four (4) years. No individual shall be elected to office of the mayor for more than three (3) consecutive full terms."
There is no stated effective date, so it is safe to assume the effective date would be on the day voters approve it, assuming they would.
What do you think? Does this language give the mayor the ability to run for one additional term, or three?
PETITIONERS NOT CALLING FOR SPECIAL ELECTION
Speaking of the petition language, I would point out that the petitions being collected call for the city clerk of West Palm Beach to "place on the ballot the following proposed amendment to the West Palm Beach City Charter on the ballot in the general election."
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: "TERM LIMIT MODIFICATION? NO THANKS"
Back in March when the mayor was still counting on a stacked charter review commission to deliver a anti-term limits referendum for her, Melissa Nash Andrews had an excellent letter to the editor printed in the Palm Beach Post. It is worth quoting in full:
"Term limits continue to be debated, even after overwhelming public support to limit the terms of Palm Beach County Commissioners. Term limits have been placed on 15 state legislatures, eight of the 10 largest cities in America have adopted term limits for their city councils and/or mayor, and 37 states place term limits on their constitutional officers.
"Term limits force out career politicians more concerned with their own gain than the interests of the people. I want to keep the pressure on the movement to preserve West Palm Beach term limits for mayor.
"Charter review? Sure. Term-limit modification? No thanks."