Limited time

Conservatives propose term limits for Chico City Council

Shall Section 401 of the Chico City Charter be amended to limit the members of the Chico City Council to no more than three (3) consecutive terms?

That is the question posed by Measure S, which will go before voters in the city of Chico Nov. 6. The measure was proposed by Councilman Mark Sorensen, who, along with his conservative council colleagues, voted in July to place it on the ballot. He, Mayor Sean Morgan and Councilman Andrew Coolidge, who is up for re-election for his second term, signed the official argument in favor of the measure submitted to the city (the arguments are available on the city website).

Their letter begins: “12 consecutive years as a Council Member is long enough!

“Term Limits encourage greater citizen participation in government, ensuring regular turnover in Council Member seats,” it continues. “Citizens of all professions and backgrounds can and will run for office.”

By way of rebuttal, longtime Councilwoman Ann Schwab and retiring Butte County Supervisor Maureen Kirk, who previously served two terms on the Chico City Council, argue that term limits remove voters’ ability to choose the most qualified candidates. “Sometimes, the incumbent is the best choice available to voters,” they write.

Schwab is currently serving her fourth consecutive four-year term on the council (she was originally elected to the panel in 2004). Measure S, which would take effect this November if approved, is not retroactive. It would require a two-year hiatus from the panel after three terms before a candidate can run again.

“We already have term limits. They’re called elections,” Schwab and Kirk write in their argument against Measure S. “… Council’s job is to direct staff. Inexperienced leaders defer more frequently to staff and special interests. Term limits ensure lobbyists have more experience than the people you elect.”

The Measure S proponents suggest term limits should apply to all political offices, from the president to Congress to state legislatures right on down to city councils.

“Elected positions should be temporary service to the PUBLIC interest, not a long career spanning decades,” they write.

Term limits do apply to the president, California governor as well as state Assembly and Senate (but not Congress).