City Charter panel OKs end to term limits
The city Charter Commission gave preliminary approval yesterday to a proposal to end term limits for City Council members, but not necessarily because elimination of term limits enjoys widespread support.
While commission members appeared divided on the issue, some advocates of term limits said the proposal could help fix an anticipated problem six years from now -- when council district lines are redrawn.
Some officials fear that a combination of term limits and staggered terms could lead to council districts being represented by more than one councilmember or no councilmember once the lines are redrawn.
Term-limit supporters like Commissioner Darolyn Lendio hope a solution to the reapportionment problem can still be crafted within the framework of term limits, even if it means extending the number of years councilmembers serve.
"It depends on how the math goes and what the various solutions are," Lendio said after the vote. "We want to seriously look at it now -- or at least I do -- to see if there can be something done now."
But others said they just don't like term limits.
"You artificially cap a person's term, where that person may provide very valuable institutional knowledge, as well as continuity of service ... which its constituents strongly and firmly believe in," Commissioner Andrew Chang said. "That decision should be left to the voters."
Other proposed Charter changes approved yesterday by the commission include increasing the number of City Council seats to 11 or 13 from the current nine and having only one election when there are only two candidates running for a city office.
The approved proposals now move on to public hearings next month, but still have several more hearings to overcome before making it onto the general election ballot on Nov. 7.
Proposals that did not make the cut yesterday include imposing term limits on the city prosecutor and making City Council and mayoral races partisan contests again.
Voters approved a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms for the Council and mayor in 1992. Then, in 1998, voters approved staggering council terms to avoid having all nine members up for election at the same time.
City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz is concerned about how the redistricting will play out.
He said the commission must act this year to correct the problem because there won't be another Charter Commission convened to consider changes to the Charter until after 2012.
While the Council also has the ability to pass proposed Charter amendments, Dela Cruz said it would look self-serving if the Council proposed eliminating term limits to fix reapportionment.
"We all have already agreed it seems to me that there's a problem. ... In 2012, there's going to be a huge problem," he said. "So if you don't fix it knowing that it's going to come, I think that's irresponsible."
Lendio said a solution could include keeping term limits but extending the number of years the City Council -- and maybe the mayor -- serve by two years to accommodate the 10-year span between the redrawing of the council lines.
Dela Cruz said he doesn't like two-year council terms because of the instability it could cause.