Elected Officials Are Always Trying To Avoid Term Limits

Since term limits were enacted in California 22 years ago there has been three efforts by politicians to loosen the term limit requirement.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ran for Mayor of New York City knowing that he was limited to two terms, but that did not stop him from changing the law so that he could run for a third term. Having achieved a third term Bloomberg supported changing the law back to a two term limit.

In 2006 the Town of Amherst, NY (population 122,000) adopted a two term limit (8 years) for elected officials. The term limit went into effect in 2007, of course Board members at the time grandfathered in their previous years of service. No elected official in Amherst has reached the two term limit yet, but as that day approaches some Amherst Board members want to revisit the idea of term limits.

Board member Mark Manna ran in 2006 knowing that if successful he would be limited to two 4 year terms. Five months into what should be his last term Manna and Board member Steven Sanders who is 17 months into his first term have filed a Resolution seeking to study the idea of term limits.

A copy of the resolution introduced is below. Whether Judges should be subject to term limits is a fair question.

I highly doubt that the end result of this Resolution will be to shorten term limits to one term. It is amazing how once people obtain elected office they do not want to leave. I applaud people who are willing to run for office and put the time in to serve but elected office should not be a career and 8 years is a sufficient amount of time to accomplish some things. I support term limits as it allows for new faces to serve in public office and it is shocking how a little bit of power goes to people’s heads in a very negative way over time.

Government Study Committee Examines Term Limits
Department: Councilmembers
Category: Resolution
Sponsors: Board Member Steven D. Sanders
WHEREAS, the Town of Amherst has term limits in place for Councilmembers, Supervisor, Highway Superintendent and Town Clerk; and

WHEREAS, these elected offices are limited to 2 (two) consecutive terms; and

WHEREAS, the Amherst Town Board instituted term limits prior to the downsizing of the council from 6 members to 4; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the Amherst Town Board directs the Government Study Committee to examine the town’s current term limits local law and submit their recommendations on the following:

1. Should the current term limits (2 terms) remain in effect, be reduced to 1 term, increased, or should term limits be otherwise modified. 

2. Should all elected officials (including Judges) be subject to term limits and, if so, how many?

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government Study Committee shall submit their recommendations to the Amherst Town Board within 60 days.

By Paul Wolf, Esq, on May 22nd, 2012
The Center for Reinventing Government

  • Steven Sanders

    Your posting takes it for granted that term limits are a good thing at all times under all conditions. I would question this position. While I understand the arguments in favor of term limits, I should point out that the Founding Fathers did not include term limits in the Constitution. Perhaps this is because term limits can lead to sub-optimal decisions by politicians who are only concerned about short-term issues, ignoring long-term issues that won’t be problems until they will be out of office. Furthermore term limits presuppose that voters are not capable of voting elected officials out of office when necessary. Ignoring the arguments for or against, this resolution only asks that the issue be reviewed without prejudice. Finally, I would argue that the ideal time to question the limit is before one is affected by it (i.e. during their first term) rather than after they have already hit their limit.
    As a postscript I should also mention that the resolution was sponsored by Councilmember Manna and co-sponsored by me, your copy of the resolution inexplicitly cut out Mr. Manna’s name.

  • Paul Wolf

    Mr. Sanders thanks for taking the time to comment. I obviously support term limits and you obviously do not. You have the ability to serve 8 years on the Amherst Town Board and 17 months in it appears that you don’t like the idea of having to leave after 8 years. I respect your desire to serve the public but in my opinion 8 years is plenty of time for you to do some good things and step aside for someone else to serve.

    I did not remove Mr. Manna’s name from the Resolution. I simply copied the Resolution from the town web site and don’t know why Mr. Manna’s name was not listed as a co-sponsor.

    I have attended meetings of the Amherst Government Study Committee in the past and look forward to their review of this issue. An interesting debate should result about this topic.

    3 Responses to “Elected Officials Are Always Trying To Avoid Term Limits”

    1. Steven Sanders says:

      I wouldn’t say that I oppose term limits in that I think that there are situations where they are appropriate. However, I do not think that they are a universal solution. I ran for one term in office knowing that I will be able to run for a second consecutive term if I so choose. Where I to wait until I was already elected to my second term to question the appropriateness of the term limits, my motives would be justifiably questioned as self-serving. However having not even begun a re-election campaign, now I think is the most appropriate time to take a look at the issue and make sure that the reasons that applied at the time it was enacted are still appropriate now. (Also as an aside, my term started 1/1/10 so I am actually 29 months in.)

      One of the factors that gives me the most flexibility in my term in office is that I have a moderately successful accounting practice as well as a career as an online instructor for the University of Phoenix and therefore do not rely on politics as my career. I can do things that may be unpopular with a vocal minority but that are in the best interest of the Town. Right now I am enjoying my experience in office and given the choice would likely continue, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t move on to something else in two, four or six years or even leave politics entirely.

      I should also mention that there is currently an opening on the Government Study Committee. If you (anyone reading this) are an Amherst resident you could be part of the discussion. Email me (ssanders@amherst.ny.us) if you are interested.

    2. Chris Drongosky says:

      The Simple Way To Explain Term Limits – If Its Good Enough For The President Its Good Enough For Everyone Else. Thank you. Case Closed.

    3. Steve says:

      Steve – your comment:
      Where I to wait until I was already elected to my second term to question the appropriateness of the term limits, my motives would be justifiably questioned as self-serving.

      So you’re saying that you are not self serving yet Mark Manna is self serving since he was just elected?

      That’s some interesting team work there