A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Term Limit Ballot Measure

Commissioners: I hope you will indulge my Midnight Pass adversary and term limit ally, Bob Waechter, and allow him to read this brief statement on my behalf, as I am unable to attend today.

I could be a proponent of term limits if I lived in a community where the elected leadership was firmly entrenched, unchallenged, and never seemed to voluntarily leave office or get voted out.

But that is not the case in Sarasota County. The last three-term commissioner in District 1 (Sandgren) stopped serving in 1980, back before Jimmy Carter was bailing out Chrysler. Recent incumbents Mercier (2 terms) and Mills (4 terms) decided on their own not to run again. Commissioner Staub, arguably one of the most popular commissioners ever, stopped before completing her fourth term.  And both Shannon Staub and Commissioner Patterson defeated incumbents to gain their seats on the Commission. The fact is that more than half of all recent Commissioners have served two terms or less. So, in my opinion, we have a reasonable balance of experience and new perspectives on the commission. Idealistically, then, I oppose term limits for Sarasota County Commissioners because I believe voters still have the ability to vote out Commissioners they don’t like (ask Gene or Jack) and I can’t see why voters would then support term limits to force the expulsion of those Commissioners they do like.

But I seem to be cursed with being both an idealist and a pragmatist. (That’s why I’m working with Bob) and I recognize that the public generally supports term limits. 

Therefore I am asking that you consider drafting and holding hearings on a potential January 2102 ballot measure that would preemptively adjust county commission term limits to three terms. If passed, such a measure would retain both the term limits most of the public seems to crave and increase the likelihood that we could rely on a balanced number of experienced commissioners to lead our increasingly large, complex, and challenging County government.