City Council and Term Limits

Apr 9, 2012 | Economy, Government & Policy

Should City Council term limits be changed from 2 four-year terms (total of 8 years) to 3 four-year terms (total of 12 years)?

That question is being floated by some City Council members, especially those who will be term limited out of office next April. The Council will probably take the question up at their June 12 Work Session.

At this point, as far as I know, this idea has not developed beyond the trial balloon stage where an idea is floated to see what kind of reaction it gets. So, with limited information so far, here are a few thoughts and questions:

  • Years ago a reform movement swept the community to change how people were elected to City Council. We went from at-large elections to voting in districts and term limits were adopted. The reform movement was intended to diminish the influence of those in power at the time. That makes it ironic that some who supported the term limits then might find them problematic now that their faction is in power.
  • The motives of the Council Members impacted, namely Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Ohlson and Council Member Ben Manvel, are honorable. They get satisfaction from serving and have put in the time and effort most people aren’t willing to devote in the service of their community. Even so, they were elected under certain rules, which they knew at the time: 8 years and done.
  • But if they press forward to change the Charter, why stop with this one issue? Consider changing from district elections to a combination of districts and at-large.  In a city of 145,000 it is possible to get elected to the City Council and wield significant power with as few as 2,400 votes. Presently, as a registered voter in Fort Collins, you can only vote for two of seven people who are making decisions that impact you / your district Council Member and the Mayor. To me, that is a much bigger issue than extending Council terms.
  • Another change that could be considered is the term of the Mayor. Council Members get to serve for a total of 8 years, whereas the Mayor, the only person who is voted on by all voters, is limited to 6 years.
  • Finally, there is the cost. The conservative estimate is that it would cost $50,000 to put the issue on the ballot. Is that a good use of taxpayer resources for something that is not a problem? In a city of 145,000 souls, there are more than just a few people who are qualified to serve on the City Council. Of all the issues that need our attention and money, doesn’t extending City Council term limits feel like a low priority?

But, what do you think? If you have suggestions or thoughts on any of this, send me an email at [email protected].