Measures would set term limits, eliminate running for specific postions

The Sherwood City Council has approved placing five charter amendments — one that would eliminate running for specific positions in favor of electing the top three vote-getters, and another that would set council term limits — on the May 20 ballot.

During a special Sherwood City Council meeting Tuesday, the council agreed with the recommendations put forward by a special Sherwood Charter Review Committee, which has been meeting since December.

Essentially, the charter amendments would:

• Eliminate councilors running for specific positions, instead allowing the top three councilors with the most votes declared winners. Patrick Allen, the charter review committee chairman, said this would eliminate having to run against someone else, something that sometimes creates a confrontational atmosphere. The measure would revert to the way council members were elected prior to May 2005.

• Ensure that the council reviews its adopted rules after each general election. Allen said the council currently has rules but they aren’t always clear. This would force each council to review their rules more frequently.

• Allow the public to speak during an open public comment period at every council meeting. Although the council allows for comments from residents during public hearings, it isn’t necessarily required to open up the meeting for comments if it was something as simple as commenting on a resolution. “We think general public comment is a good thing,” said Allen.

• Impose term limits mandating that no councilor could serve more than three consecutive terms. Under the ballot proposal, a person serving a partial term would be considered to have served the equivalent of a full term.

As an example, if someone was appointed to serve only several months of a remaining council term, that person could only be allowed to serve two more full terms. While several Portland-metro cities including Hillsboro, Tigard and Lake Oswego mandate that council members serve no more than eight consecutive years, most nearby cities don’t have any term-limit rules.

Allen said discussion by the charter review committee on term limits generated sharp differences among members.

During public comments, Sherwood resident Anthony Bevel said he thought term limits should be shorter.

“I think three terms for council membership is way too long,” said Bevel. “Twelve years in anything in a volunteer position, I mean people get stale.”

• Address issues of filling vacancies. The language would add a new category that says an office becomes vacant if a person is elected to a different city office. Also, while a current requirement says that a council seat is considered vacant if an incumbent councilor is absent from three consecutive regular council meetings, ballot language would change that to declaring a vacancy if a council member misses “all meetings in a 60-day period.”

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