Nonpartisan Support Grows to Limit County Council and Executive to Three Terms: Vote YES on Question B!
By Ann Guthrie Hingston
Signatures of 18,000 voters on a petition to place term limits on the presidential ballot was just the tip of the iceberg. Frustration and anger of Montgomery County residents of all political parties has grown with traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, and taxes. Many feel their concerns are being ignored by their officials. It has not gone unnoticed that five of out of the nine current council members, and the county executive, are serving their third or fourth term and that passage of Question B would prevent them from running in 2018 for the same office.
The ballot committee formed to support term limits, “Voters for Montgomery County Term Limits,” is non-partisan and headed by a Democrat, J. Walsh Richards with a Republican Treasurer, Harold Painter. Forty-two percent of the people who signed the petition were registered Democrats; 39 percent registered Republicans, and 18 percent, unaffiliated voters.
If you would like to help the ballot committee, go to their website, www.mocotermlimits.org, order a yard sign, donate and volunteer.
Major support came this week when the Montgomery County Civic Federation endorsed the passage of Question B. The MCCF is a nonpartisan group that represents 100,000 residents and hundreds of neighborhood, homeowners and civic organizations. For 90 years, it has promoted good governance in the county and in fact, its work led to our current charter government. The MCCF is a valuable watchdog that studies issues and testifies before the council on issues most important to residents: transportation, education and budget.
The MCCF newsletter presented the case for term limits quite well:
At this point in our history as a Charter County, we have seen a politically diverse community gradually change to a homogenous one, where office holders are not, as originally envisioned, citizen representatives, but instead have become long-term office holders. As one example, we have had only two county executives in the past 20 years. Term limits would bring back the idea that office holders are privileged, elected citizens who have taken a limited time from their lives and jobs to serve the residents of the county.
Term limits would encourage people who otherwise may not consider running to step up, take a risk and run for office. With the advent of the long-term professional office holder comes a special “in the bubble” group of people who have accumulated enormous campaign “war chests.” These “war chests” grow from year to year, allowing an unfair advantage to the incumbent. In addition, incumbents are able to give money to fellow professional office holders, something new candidates cannot do. Again, here, term limits would lessen the financial advantage that incumbents have.
Long-term incumbents also have the free county “bully pulpit,” name recognition, and an advantage with the press. Term limits are a successful tool in the toolkit for a truly democratic county. Term limits help to create a more level playing field so that the tremendous advantages of long-term incumbency are somewhat slowed. Some are saying that, with term limits, the institutional knowledge of these offices would be gone. That is in no way the case.
As it is, as we all know, lobbyists and special interests hold tremendous sway in the county currently and, while those with special interests meet often with office holders to push their case on different issues from which they benefit, the average resident has two minutes to present public testimony.
Term limits would assure that these special interests would not hold sway indefinitely, with growing ties to the same incumbents and increasing power over our system, creating a lopsided government process. Term limits would mean that new faces from across the county would be encouraged to step up and enter the political arena. Term limits would mean that new ideas and innovation could take hold in the County.
At the close of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a passerby is reputed to have asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got? A Republic, or a Monarchy?” Franklin’s reply: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Let’s keep it.
We join MCCF and the Voters for Montgomery County Term Limits and ask for your support for passage of Question B.