Term limits - what problem are we trying to solve?
A move to implement term limits, like any change in public policy, is proposed to solve a problem. So, what is the problem? Is the problem that Wilsonville needs to ensure a steady turnover among elected officials and make the election process more competitive? With only 8 months in office as the newest member of Wilsonville's City Council, I have some observations.
Proponents of Wilsonville term limits argue the problem is "power of entrenched incumbency" citing that veteran incumbents have an unfair advantage and discourage new candidates from standing for election. They also suggest, over time, term limits allow more turnover making way for "diversity of thought" and a "chance for new ideas and solutions." Are these truly problems that Wilsonville must address to improve the functioning and livability of our community and are term limits the solution to the problem?
The 3-year research study "Joint Project on Term Limits" conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation found that term limits have not led to the new breed of diverse citizen legislators that proponents expected to see.
Wilsonville has consistently benefited from having a council with diverse perspectives, ages, genders and life experiences. Current council members' experience in city or county governance range from 22-1/2 years to 8 months, with 3 of the 5 members having fewer than 5 years in office. The council has two men and three women ages ranging 30s to 70s. So is the problem lack of diversity or "power of incumbency"?
Since the 2008-09 recession Wilsonville added 5,900 jobs, most in high wage sectors. Payroll in our community increased by $600 million to $1.4 billion annually. In 2018, Standard & Poors increased the City bond rating from AA+ to AAA. So is the problem lack of new ideas and solutions?
What do we want of local government? Most people want their local government to protect and advance their community in a thoughtful, responsible way. They want government that enhances quality of life, maintains fiscally responsible operations, is open, transparent, inclusive and available. I believe that is what we currently enjoy in Wilsonville. Forcing excellent leadership to term out is a failed strategy for an unsupported problem.
Joann Linville, EdD., is a Wilsonville city councilor.
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