As you know, I think Houston's term limits law, which restricts municipal officeholders to three two-year terms, is a bad idea. But it's still better than what they've got in San Antonio, which is two two-year terms. San Antonio's popular Mayor, Phil Hardberger, called for a change to that law in his State of the City speech.
I'm proud of what we've accomplished as a team in two and a half years, but I am aware that the biggest impediment I face as Mayor is time. My hope is that in my four years as Mayor, we will move this city forward 25 years. That will be a credit to people like you who have joined us to work for the betterment of all. In the life of a city, four years is not a lot of time. Not enough time to start many things, much less finish them.
Leadership matters. Our elected leadership, Mayor and Council, are handcuffed by strict term limits - among the strictest in the nation. We've recently had another reminder of the downside of term limits as two out of our four returning Council members left to pursue other offices because of these term limits.
When this community voted overwhelmingly to pass the largest bond in our history, it was a vote of confidence in ourselves. Term limits also speak to our confidence, and whether we believe in ourselves, and indeed, in democracy itself. I believe people are intelligent enough to vote people out of office who are not doing a satisfactory job.
I do not advocate doing away with term limits altogether, but we should at least allow our elected representatives enough time to get something done. I will lead the fight to extend our present term limits from two 2-year terms to four 2-year terms and place it on the November ballot. This is a reasonable compromise and will allow us to have a more effective city government. I have appointed Christian Archer, the campaign manager for the bond election, to be the campaign manager for this critical task. I ask your help in this reasonable reform.
Citizens have always had the ultimate term limit device, however -- the ballot box. It's sad that strict term limits proponents have so much distrust not of politicians, but instead of voters to make the right decisions. What they're saying is that voters simply lack the ability to determine whether a City Council member deserves to serve more than two terms.
That's not a very ringing endorsement of the democratic process. Moreover, by perpetuating a constant shuffle of council members and short-circuiting the development of expertise among elected officials, San Antonio's strict term limits confer greater power on unelected city staff. Eight of the current ten City Council district representatives have been in office for seven months or less.
Hardberger's proposal is a reasonable one. It still requires council members to go back to the voters every two years to seek reelection. But it wisely gives voters the option of keeping a good representative on council for a third and possible fourth term.
"The Homeowner Taxpayer Association will fight back," says Homeowner Taxpayer Association President Bob Martin.
The HTA led the drive to win approval of the term limits law, the strictest in the nation, under the leadership of founder C.A. Stubbs, and Stubbs says Hardberger may be catering to the elites in the Chamber of Commerce and in City Hall, but changes in the term limits law are not supported by the people.
"I frankly cannot figure out what part of 'no' the mayor and the other people down there don't understand," Stubbs said.