In 1994 Houston voters backed term limits on City Hall 79%-21%. Ever since, ambitious politicos and their patrons have tried to overturn the 3 term, 6 year limitation.
Unable to roll back term limits locally, mayors and council members enlisted friendly legislators such as Garnet Coleman to carry bills that would have had the State of Texas force Houston voters to revisit what we had already decided. These efforts failed, but City Hall was not ready to give up.
Along with skyrocketing debt, Bill White dropped a ‘term limit commission’ in our laps as he departed Bagby St. This commission, comprised of assorted insiders, former officeholders and chaired by former Ambassador/current well connected lawyer Arthur Schechter will issue ‘recommendations’ no later than July 1, 2010. The recommendations would appear on the November ballot or possibly as a charter change in ’11.
The commission’s first public session is set for Wed. Feb 10, 7pm at City Hall council chambers, 901 Bagby.
A good guess would have the commission recommend either additonal terms, lengthening existing terms or letting officeholders sit out a term and then come back.
This is not the time to extend city hall terms. It may be time to reduce the current 3 term, 6 year limit to 4 years. There is virtually no competition for any council member or mayor once elected. Each is viewed as being there for 6 years. Bert Keller is the only councilman in recent memory to not get his 6 years, but it took a drunk driving incident and some ill advised comments to send him away.
Please give the commission the gift of your good counsel. Feel free to attend the public meetings, for informational purposes of course.
Since the current denizens of city hall will have to put the changes on the ballot, remind them that efforts to extend their time at the trough may well have the opposite effect.
link to commission: http://www.houstontx.gov/citizensnet/TermLimitsHearing020510.html