Monroe City Councilmember Kevin Hanford renewed the topic of repealing term limits during last Tuesday’s council meeting, but was unable to move the issue forward.
Councilmember Patsy Cudaback originally made the motion to end an eight-year term limit rule for the city council, which was adopted in 2012. Monroe voters approved of the regulation by 76 percent in a 2011 advisory vote.
Two public hearings in November and December were sparsely attended, Hanford said, and little feedback was provided. He and Councilmember Jason Gamble were absent for the final vote on Dec. 6. The motion failed 4-1.
Of the few comments that came in, Hanford said, “We got roughly the same amount of people coming forward saying ‘we should keep them’ as we did ‘get rid of them.’”
He added few councilmembers seemed steadfastly against Cudaback’s original motion to eliminate term limits.
“I voted for term limits, I checked the box,” Hanford said. “Now that I know the stakes and really what’s at stake, it doesn’t make sense to me.”
He said there is much knowledge that can only be gained by filling a council seat for many years.
“And now we are telling them because of some meetings that occurred during a holiday season that their opinion is not valid, it’s not important and we don’t have to listen to them,” Councilmember Jim Kamp said. “I don’t agree with that. I think the vote we had last month hit the nail. We needed to address the fact that the people wanted to have term limits. They let it up to us to determine how it was going to be implemented, and I think we should move forward.”
Cudaback sat on the council in 2011. She made the motion to revisit the notion of repeal on Oct. 25. It was the same night the council updated city code to parallel state law, making the two-year at-large position, currently filled by Councilmember Kirk Scarboro, into a four-year position. The vote highlighted a point of friction in city code.
Any elected official that holds a two-year elected position prior to or after a four-year position will crash through the eight-year ceiling, and can’t run for reelection.
Many of the councilmembers said they see other reasons to leave term limits behind.
Gamble said he believes an election is enough of a barrier in itself.
“The idea behind term limits, I think, is noble,” he said. “We want to have is have fresh ideas. We want people here; we want that change. You don’t want people to get in somebody’s pocket, you know, special interest groups all that stuff...you are not in anybody’s pocket (here) by any stretch of the imagination. That’s a unique federal-type concern.”
Councilmember Jeff Rasmussen said he was still stuck on the advisory vote.
“The advisory vote...it’s just a vote that is suppose to advise us on taking action, not the golden rule,” Cudaback said. “(It’s) not what we have to do. It’s supposed to give us a piece of information that we use to make a decision, it’s a piece.”
She covered previous territory, citing her original reasons for bringing up the motion. The council has never had an issue with entrenchment, there has always been enough turn over in city government, and people should be able to support the candidate of their choosing, she said.
A motion to accept as the first reading the ordinance that would repeal term limits failed Tuesday by a tie vote, with Scarboro abstaining.