Editorial: Does Avon need term limits? | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Does Avon need term limits?

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

One of the glitches in our great Democracy is the career politician.

We see this most discouragingly in Congress, specifically the Senate, where some members have seemingly served since D-Day.

We the people almost never unseat incumbent senators, but we also complain when Congress doesn’t get anything done because none of its members have fresh ideas to attack modern problems or are afraid to challenge the cronies they’ve made in the establishment over the decades.

The councils, commissions and boards that run small towns and other regional government agencies may not have the sweeping power Congress does, but they can be weakened by the creative ruts and political cowardice that plague the lifelong senator.

That’s why there’s no good reason to get rid of term limits for Avon town council members. (The town’s charter says no one can serve more than two four-year terms in a row, but they can run again after sitting out four years.)

The term limits not only stop someone from making a career out of town council, but give more citizens a chance to have a bigger impact on the future of their town.

An argument could be made for removing term limits were Avon starving for candidates. But there have been plenty of residents interested in bringing their ideas to town government in the last few elections.

Another argument against term limits is that it forces from office experienced council members who have dealt with complex problems. Big development proposals can certainly challenge council members whose full-time jobs have nothing to do with finances or municipal planning, but to say they can’t make such decisions responsibly ” that only those who’ve been on council four or five years can be trusted ” is not only a little arrogant, but also undemocratic.

Term limits have done an adequate job across Eagle County of bringing new people into elected office and making our towns something Congress isn’t ” a government of the people.

” Matt Zalaznick for the Editorial Board

Term limits is a funny concept, especially in Colorado.

At the state level, residents in the last couple of decades have approved ballot measures that put the sole power to determine tax increases into voters’ hands and impose term limits on elected officials.

That means many of the same people have said, in essence, they trust voters’ wisdom on taxes, but not their ability to rid themselves of representatives who aren’t doing their jobs.

That’s a simplistic analysis, of course. But the fact is incumbency is an almost sure-fire road to re-election at the county commissioner level and above.

However voters can, and do, regularly toss out incumbents on school boards and town councils.

Ask Keith Thompson, an incumbent who lost his seat on the Eagle County School Board last fall, or Dick Cleveland in 2005, when he lost his seat on the Vail Town Council to a challenger. Cleveland, now Vail’s mayor, was re-elected in 2007. You have to love Vail voters.

Local politicians represent fewer people, so you’re more likely to meet at the post office, or live up the street from, a town council or school board member than you are a county commissioner or state representative.

Eagle County voters seem to have struck about the right balance a few years ago when they exempted all elected officials except the county commissioners from term limits.

After all, if Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis wants her job for 20 years and voters agree, why not? The other side of the equation is the succession of one-term assessors the county has had over the last 15 years or so.

Term limits for commissioners seem appropriate, given the often-politicized nature of the job and the ability for just three people to set policy for the entire county. And we’d favor term limits on those holding national office, too. No more than 12 years for a representative or senator sounds about right.

But close to home, if Avon voters want to keep their town council members longer than eight years, we should trust their wisdom.

” Scott N. Miller for the Editorial Board

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