So Initiative 8 is “tinkering with term limits” (News Tribune editorial, 3/26)? Let’s talk about how local politicians have tried to tinker with term limits for many years.
Tinkering with Tacoma’s term limits is what politicians have done for the past 10 years, just not successfully. As efforts by career politicians opposed to term limits have failed, a new idea emerged. Simply resign from elected office, have a break in service of time and voila, a candidate can run again, skirting the intent of the term-limit law.
Citizen Initiative 8 fixes a loophole in the term-limit law that is being exploited by a current candidate for Tacoma elected office. If that candidate had honored term-limit precedents as other candidates have done since 1973, citizens would not have been forced into collecting signatures to protect term limits that have worked for more than four decades.
How have local politicians tried to tinker with term limits? It goes back to 2008 when the first attack was led by then City Council member Connie Ladenburg. The proposal would have simply eliminated term limits altogether.
Even The News Tribune weighed in on the blatant term-limit attack, noting it had a “smell of self-interest” (TNT editorial, 6/30/2008). The 2008 Voters Pamphlet had one name supporting the elimination of term limits. The politicians were silent, but everybody in tune with Tacoma politics knew who was behind the proposal. Voters easily rejected it.
Then in 2014, Tacoma voters resoundingly rejected an effort to extend term limits, while passing 11 other charter change proposals put forth by the citizen Charter Commission. How did that term-limit proposal get put before the voters? The career politicians on the council put it there because the mayor wanted a third term.
This tinkering with the language by politicians would have allowed for a possible 18 years on the council. Guess who else was on the council at that time? Yes, the very same candidate running for office today, i.e., the loophole candidate. And just like the automaker Volkswagen sought to evade emissions laws, this VW career politician does the same with term limits.
The loophole candidate has opened a floodgate for politicians to avoid term limits. This latest opportunistic maneuver put a glaring spotlight on a loophole that needs to be fixed, and since the laws that govern citizens who propose a charter amendment restrict ballot access to odd-years only, this is the year to address this loophole.
Preserving Tacoma term limits provides for rotation of elected officials and opportunities for new people, new ideas and new directions.
Evidence of a need for new leadership are the crowds of people filling public meetings to protest the now-dead methanol refinery and advocating for a safe port and community without a dangerous LNG plant.
When career politicians stay in office for more than eight years, ideas like LNG take hold as politicians begin favoring corporations over the interests of residents and voters.
Tinkering with term limits began with politicians and ends with citizens collecting 17,000 signatures for Citizen Initiative 8.
Let the voters decide in November. Join Save Tacoma Water and other term-limit advocates who support this initiative to end the term-limit loophole.
Sherry Bockwinkel and Donna Walters are co-founders of Save Tacoma Water and sponsors of Citizen Initiative 8.