From Congress To City Hall, Term Limits Are Always A Good Idea.

By: Steven Maggi

Our founding fathers envisioned an America with a citizen-Government, not professional politicians that spend some or all of their working lives earning their fortunes as legislators. The idea was simple .. each state, district, town would be managed by leading citizens, sacrificing briefly for public service. Today, however, elective office is a career opportunity.

Take Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Under “experience” on his resume, it would say “United States Senator, 1962 to Present.” It is the only job he has held in over 40 years! He is not alone. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd goes back to 1959. In fact, there have been 19 senators that have served over 35 years. The House is no better .. Congressman John Dingell, for example, has been there since 1955.

Modern politicians are concerned with a number of activities: spending taxpayer’s money, getting re-elected and thus protecting their chosen career, raising the enormous amounts of money necessary to getting re-elected, and finally, doing the work of their constituents. They are an elite class that becomes detached from the roots of the community that gave them the power they hold.

Challengers have a very slim chance of removing the incumbent, as those in power also have access to expensive and powerful mailing lists, political machines, and carefully drawn out districts, thanks to the party in power wanting to keep it that way forever.

Term Limits are the antidote to this dilemma, which brings us to Ground Zero for 2006: the mid-size town of Tracy, California. Tracy has decided to put on its November ballot a measure that would impose term limits on municipal officers.

Staycee Hall, chairwoman of the Tracy Term Limits Committee, asks “Does the government serve people better when incumbents continually exercise their re-election advantage while becoming career politicians? Do you believe the only elected officials who can be effective are those who have spent years and years in elective office? Do you desire the opportunity to speak for yourself by being given the opportunity to vote your opinion?”

Reasonable questions. And the answers make the case for term limits obvious. First and foremost, they assure competition in elections and encourage voter turnout by limiting the number of elections that the famous name or massive wallet (see Kennedy, above) can participate in. They remove the politician who has his or her favorite lobbyist “delivering influence” year after year. They eliminate the career politician, making room for concerned citizens who want to “give back” to his/her community. Finally, the perpetual campaign is eliminated, giving the public servant a finite amount of time to accomplish something without worrying about the polls.

Term limits are nothing new in America. The 22nd Amendment limits a President to only 2 terms, and 38 states have term limits for their Governor. Over 3,000 local governments also have term limits, so what Tracy is attempting to do is nothing new.

The argument against term limits is that we lose too much when we don’t have experienced politicians. To the lobbyists and special interests, there is really nothing like dealing with same politician year after year. And these lobbyists/special interests have money and are not afraid to use it to keep the same system.

For example, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce refused to allow their annual meeting to be attended or filmed by citizens opposed to a proposal to weaken existing term limits.
Back in 1992, 70% of Oregon’s electorate voted for term limits, making it the most popular voter-approved amendment in state history. Legislators and lobbyists conspired to cancel Oregon’s term limits in 2002, but voters there are getting a second chance to speak. This November voters put Measure 45 on the ballot, which would restore limits.

So what is happening in Tracy? As usual, the same old crowd is screaming about the evils of term limits…the career politicians that don’t want to lose their power and influence and the journalists who seem to idolize these “professional leaders.” The local paper, the Tracy Press, says (dripping with elitism and arrogance) that “we already have term limits—they are called elections.” However, we know the advantages of incumbency do anything but keep the officials honest.

Tracy represents a cross section of America. It is a small town becoming larger overnight. It has out-grown its leaders. Continued expansion also brings crime, traffic and other issues that can affect the quality of life. With these changes comes the need for new leadership. Term Limits will give Tracy what it needs.

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