August 11, 2004
Term limits intact for now

Looks like the proponents of the move to roll back Houston's term limits law have hit a roadblock.

Lobbyists and people who do business with the city, among others, were considering a measure that would allow Houston's mayor, controller and council members to stay in office for eight years, two years longer than term limits now permit.

The group was going to propose limiting officials to four two-year terms. The existing limit, set by city voters in 1991, is three two-year terms. It also was considering allowing former officials to run again after sitting out two terms and applying the new limits to current officeholders.

However, the group, led by lawyer Bill King, did not believe it had time to put together a petition drive, which would have required gathering more than 20,000 signatures by the end of this month to get the measure on the November ballot.

"I don't think we have time to coalesce around a particular position," said King, managing partner at the law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, which collects delinquent taxes and parking fines for the city.

"We will take another look at it the next time around."

You all know that I oppose term limits laws, but I think it'd be better to vote on this in 2005, during our regular municipal elections. With the Mayoral race likely to be a non-entity, this would allow the voters' attention (such as it is) to be focused on this issue. Even the incremental changes that have been proposed are a big deal, so we may as well take the time to talk about them in full. My only hope is that we get more than one option, including one to remove term limits entirely, to vote on, which as I recall was how the election to impose our current plan was conducted.

The City Council can put the charter change on the ballot, although it is not likely because doing so would appear self-serving, city officials said.

"I never heard sentiment among council that anyone was willing to move forward with it," said Councilman Michael Berry, who supports the city's current term limits. "It's simply not the most pressing issue on the table."

That's appropriate, and I certainly agree that the Council has more pressing items to address. Let's do this next year, and let's do it right.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 11, 2004 to Local politics | TrackBack