Council members weigh in on four-year term limit proposal

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council members are expected to vote on a measure at the next full council meeting that would change the current term limit from two years to four. If passed, the measure would be put on the November 2012 ballot.

"It's going to make our government more efficient and we're going to get a lot more done," Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said.

"This is a power grab," argued councilman Christopher Smitherman. "This is what it looks like when you have a majority, whether it's a republican majority, [or] whether it's democratic majority."

Currently five of Quinlivan's fellow council members stand behind her proposal to move to four-year terms. Those supporting members include Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Charlie Winburn, Cecil Thomas, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young. Those opposed include P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Chris Seelbach.

Initially, Seelbach was on the fence trying to decide which way he would vote.

"I commend council member Quinlivan," Seelbach told FOX19 news. "But I've fallen on the other side of the issue."

The arguments in favor of the change include the stance that the move would allow council members to be more productive.

"So much time is wasted because you have to devote so much time to your reelection," Quinlivan argued.

"The type of work we're talking about really takes a long time and having turnover every two years is really challenging," Simpson shared.

"I've been here for two months and I feel we've been able to get a lot done," Sittenfeld countered. "After two years I think you need to be able to show something for your time."

Another argument is that four years is already an accepted term limit in many cities.

"There are several communities around us that already have the four-year terms so we're a little bit behind the times so to speak," Wendell Young said.

On the other side, however, some question the council-initiated move.

"I'd rather this be done by the voters," Chris Seelbach said. "I'd rather this be done through a petition drive."

"I think city council has a little too much self interest to increase our own job security at a time when everybody else is fighting to keep their jobs," Sittenfeld said.

Charlie Winburn, however, argued the voters expect council members to make decisions which include term limit changes.

"They've elected us to do some things ourselves," Winburn argued.

Another concern is that the legislation would wipe the slate clean for current council members and allow them to serve up to an additional eight years in office starting in 2013 if the measure passes.

"Part of this proposal grandfathers in all members of council," Smitherman said.

"There's nothing that says the people who are in here now will get to stay," Quinlivan remarked. "They're still up for election."

Quinlivan says she believes offering a clean slate is the fairest way to handle the situation, which she says would ultimately result in someone serving more than eight years no matter how the matter was resolved.

When asked if he would consider another run, Cecil Thomas, who is on his last term, said he would leave his options open.

"I have not decided one way or the other on that," Thomas said. "In fact, it never even crossed my mind."

The Rules and Government Operations Committee meeting will be held at City Hall on Wednesday Feb. 8 at 10:30 a.m. The measure will then move before the full council for vote on the following Wednesday.

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