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Time has come for term limits
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Updated: 01/25/2014 08:00:01AM

Time has come for term limits

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Regular readers of this newspaper’s editorials will not be surprised to learn that we fully support Dr. Tim Brooks’ request to the Bartow city commission Tuesday night to put a charter change imposing term limits on the city election ballot.

It is an idea we have embraced for years, most recently a little earlier this month. (Term limits require an amendment to the city charter, which requires approval of the voters.)

Dr. Brooks did not propose the details he thinks most beneficial to citizens, but urged commissioners to put the issue before the people. He even expressed a willingness to help initiate a petition drive, if necessary, to advance the proposal.

Given the response at Tuesday night’s commission meeting, that does not appear to be necessary. All three commissioners present — James Clements, Wayne Lewis, and Adrian Jackson — expressed support for the concept. (The other two commissioners were absent.)

Clements, who is mayor, instructed City Attorney Sean Parker to prepare a proposal for action at the commission’s next meeting in order to comply with a March 1 deadline for asking the supervisor of elections to put an issue on the city election ballot in April.

A special charter amendment election could be held later in the year, but that would entail additional expense, and an election on this one issue, with no commission candidates on the ballot, likely would draw few voters.

Whether approved or rejected, this major change in the way Bartow elects its city commissioners should be decided by a significant number of voters.

This newspaper has proposed:

• Two-year terms.

• A limit of eight years (four terms) of service.

• Elimination of two of the three election districts.

We believe two years (the same length as terms of members of both the U.S. and Florida House of Representatives) is long enough for a commissioner to make an impact on government.

Floridians have responded to the “Eight Is Enough” concept almost every time they have had the opportunity to impose term limits.

Many years ago, voters approved a proposal to create a minority election district to virtually ensure election of a black candidate. As part of that plan, two majority districts were created … to ensure election of two white candidates? The latter is an unneeded and pointless “precaution.”

We have no objection to one minority district and recommend that it be preserved.

We would propose that incumbent commissioners be allowed to serve eight more years, if re-elected four more times, though three of the five have said they have no intent to do so.

City government in a small city is “friends and neighbors” government, and friends and neighbors seldom seek to oust an incumbent.

Because incumbent commissioners seldom draw opponents, the notion that voters “can impose term limits at every election” is a fiction.

Term limits would ensure a diversity of views on the commission, a regular infusion of new talent and new ideas.

The issue should be put before the voters in a charter change on the April ballot.

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