Does Central Need Term Limits?

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An Editorial by Dave Freneaux

    During Central’s 2010 municipal elections one topic discussed by several candidates was term limits.  Central currently has no legislation limiting the number of terms an elected official can serve.  Central’s Mayor, Council Members and Police Chief are up for election every four years.  The question now being asked is, should Central impose term limits?

    Those in favor of term limits would argue that it keeps any one individual from becoming a permanent fixture, re-elected each year simply because of popularity or name recognition.  Those against term limits can counter that by pointing out that if the people want to be represented by this individual, they should have a right to elect the person.  The argument against term limits would maintain that if an elected official is doing a good job they deserve to be re-elected.  The case for term limits includes the argument that even if a challenger is more qualified, the incumbent has an edge in the election.

    So where does that leave Central?  I do not claim to be an expert on Louisiana Law or the Lawrason Act, but my research indicates that the citizens of Central, a Lawrason Act City, can indeed vote to have term limits.  Several opinions of the Louisiana Attorney General as well as a court case in Harahan support that position.  Assuming Central has the “right” to impose term limits, is it “right” for Central?

    With the pay for Council Members at $800 per month, the police chief part time at $26,500 per year and the Mayor, a full time job, at $55,000 per year, it is unlikely that any elected official will seek to become a “career politician” in Central for the sake of the money.  That leaves the issue, in my opinion, to one of representation.  With all of the current Council Members having come out in favor of dividing Council Seats into districts, each district in Central will likely be able to elect a person from their area as a Council Member.  Once elected, the voters in that district can easily vote the Council Member out at the next election if the voters disapprove of his or her performance.  THAT, in my opinion, is a term limit.  Voters do not have to wait until the Council Member or Mayor or Police Chief serves eight years, they can be voted out in four, or they can serve as long as the people feel they are doing the job well.

    If this issue is put to a vote in Central and the people opt for term limits, I can support that as well…with one stipulation.  I am not sure if term limits can be retroactive, but if they can and the people want them, they should be retroactive.  If the people do not want their Mayor, Police Chief or Council Members to serve more than eight years, for whatever reason, then current elected officials should be no exception.  In fact, if term limits cannot be retroactive, I would suggest that current elected officials voluntarily term limit themselves.  If the people speak in an election and say they want Central’s Mayors to be limited to three terms, the sitting Mayor should not run for a fourth term, even if it is technically allowed.  The same thinking should apply to Council Members and the Chief of Police.  In short, I would prefer no term limits in a small community like Central where serving is more a public service than a career, but if the voters want term limits, current elected officials should be no exception.

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