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By John J. Tassoni, Jr
Ever since President George Washington voluntarily chose not to seek re-election for a third term, Americans have debated the benefits of limiting the number of years that an elected official can serve in office. It is a debate that has the country split down the middle, applying term limits to some state and local office holders but not to others.
If we take a look even further back to ancient Greece and Rome. The councils of Athens and Sparta rotated their entire membership every year. The elected magistrates of Rome also served a one-year term, and could not be re-elected to the same magistracy for ten years. Rotating authority through limited tenure of office-holding was thought to limit corruption and bring forth experienced politicians.
In the U.S. the president is the only federal elected official who has a limited term of service of two terms or eight years. Congress members do not operate under these guidelines and can run for re-election as many times as they would like. Term limits at the state and local levels are more prevalent, particularly with governorships. According to the National Governors’ Association, governors in 38 states, commonwealths and territories cannot seek reelection after serving two consecutive terms. Also, The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that members of 15 state legislatures have term limits.
What is the benefit of term limits?
Term limits ensure a turnover of elected leaders, reducing the number of incumbents and providing an opportunity for fresh ideas and actions. There is also the longstanding argument that an elected office in the United States was never meant to be a career position, because longtime officeholders may give more attention to their re-election campaigns rather than serving the people. Additionally, challengers are at a disadvantage when running against incumbents with higher name recognition.
What is the opposition to term limits?
Many claim that voters don’t have a full range of choices if incumbents cannot seek re-election, and that major policy decisions will be left in the hands of inexperienced office holders. Furthermore, the opportunity to limit an office holder’s term is decided by voters in every election,
But the real question of term limits is who’s in charge?
As the largest grass roots movement in the United States, imposing term limits ensures a government “of the people, by the people” rather than that of a ruling class.
So when the next election cycle comes around, think about how term limits could affect the Town of Smithfield’s town council, school committee, legislative boards and commissions. Some people serve way to long and think their spot is theirs for the keeping, we need change.
Will placing a limit on the time office holders can serve help preserve the integrity of the office. I believe it would. Let`s see who has the nerve to make change.
You, the voter, must decide. Ask the Town Council to address this issue through a Charter Commission Review. NOW !