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Term Limits In Erie County

Filed under: Erie County, Local Politics


Last week I spoke before the Erie County Legislature in support of term limits for county elected officials. Legislator Kevin Hardwick has filed an item seeking to limit legislators to no more than ten consecutive years in office. Hardwick is only addressing legislators, although I support term limits for all county elected officials. In my opinion a ten year limit is too long, my preference would be for a four or eight year limit.

When researching term limits I was surprised to learn that from 1928 to 1969, the City of Buffalo limited Mayors to one four year term. Over a forty year period Buffalo had ten different Mayors. Once term limits were removed by Mayor Frank Sedita, Buffalo for better or worse has had three Mayors over the past forty years (Griffin 16 years, Masiello 12 years, Byron Brown at the end of his current term will be 12 years).

The history of term limits is interesting, I made the following points when I spoke to the Legislature.

  • In Greek & Roman times elected officials were limited to serving 1 year
  • The Articles of Confederation our nation’s first constitution in 1781 limited members of congress to 3 years.
  • This limit came from Thomas Jefferson who expressed concern that without term limits elected officials would remain in office for life.
  • For over 150 years George Washington set the standard that Presidents should not serve more than 2 terms. After Franklin Roosevelt ran for 4 terms the U.S. Constitution was changed in 1951 to limit Presidents to 2 terms.
  • Today many states and cities limit terms of office. Locally the town of Tonawanda has a 12 year limit. Amherst, Evans and Lackawanna have an 8 year limit.
  • From 1928 until 1969 Mayors of Buffalo were limited to one term.
  • I support term limits because running for public office is a rigged game. Incumbents are re-elected 98% of the time because they have all of the advantages
  1. Districts lines are gerrymandered and tilted towards one party or the other
  2. They typically raise more money
  3. Able to generate free press
  4. Access to paid staff in their offices, Board of Elections, Party Headquarters
  • Elections are simply not a fair or competitive fight. 
  • Public service should not be a career. People should contribute for a few years and move on. Every few years we need open seats to allow new people and new ideas to step forward.
  • 10 years too long. I support 4 or 8 year limit for all county officials


  • Yea Term Limits! Because letting citizens in a representative democracy decide for themselves who should represent them in government is dumb!

  • Perhaps we should look at the New Hampshire legislature, a bicameral house, for ideas for improvement in New York State, The lower house is paid $200 per biennium and the upper house (Senate) is paid $100 annually. This concept could be applied to the County legislature, as well as New York State’s legislature. New Hampshire is consistently rated as one of the best states to live. Government office is regarded as more of a civic duty rather than part of the life-long ambition of the politically connected, resulting in “common” people serving in office with no financial incentive to put their own needs, wants and desires ahead of the general population’s.

    • Kevin Hickey

      Yeah, “common people” who can afford to live on $100 / yr.

      • That’s the point. The job is a part time job that doesn’t have government involving itself with every aspect of our lives while finding new ways to spend our money. New Hampshire consistently has one of the lowest unemployment rates, a high standard of living and a low crime rate. It need a bunch of life-long bloviating politicians to accomplish that.

      • New Hampshire also has 1/19 the population of New York and 1/6 of NYS’ area. It’s easy to bleat “Live Free Or Die!” when you’re managing an electorate that’s dwarfed by Macedonia

      • Perhaps the mindset that the electorate needs to be managed is the actual problem.

      • What the hell does that mean?

      • jimd54

        This should be fun

      • Kevin Hickey

        So you believe that you can be a state senator while keeping a regular full time job?

      • It is not a belief, it is happening.

        The Legislative Branch is also known as the General Court of New
        Hampshire. It consists of two chambers, the House of Representatives and
        the Senate. There are 400 Representatives and 24 Senators, making the
        General Court the second largest legislature in the United States
        following the U.S. Congress. It is said that only the U.S. congress and
        the English and Indian Parliaments are larger.

        Representatives and Senators write and pass the laws of the
        state. In New Hampshire, members of the General Court are elected every
        two years, meeting in annual sessions beginning in January of each year.
        New Hampshire takes pride in its Citizen Legislature, so called because
        members to the General Court are not professional politicians, but come
        from a variety of occupations. Professions of members include the
        self-employed, retired, homemakers, students, and lawyers. For their
        time and effort they are paid $200 per term plus milage costs. Because
        of their added duties, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President
        receive $250 per term.”

      • Kevin Hickey

        Professions of members include the self-employed, retired, homemakers, students, and lawyers.

        With the possible exception of homemaker, I wouldn’t consider any of these full time jobs. And I assume that the homemaker lives with someone who has a full time job.

  • Bill Altreuter

    Term limits come with a cost: expertise is aged out and wasted. Term limits don’t really remove the entrenched– it is more like shuffling the deck. When people are termed out they find another office– elected, or otherwise. Sam Hoyt, for example, although he wasn’t term limited away, went quietly and was rewarded with whatever it is that he is doing at the moment. I very much doubt that either Sam– who I like– or Tony Massiello, to pick another name out of a hat– are ever going to work real jobs. They will instead be a part of the Permanent Government, either in the so-called Public Sector, or as lobbyists/consultants– or both. Based on the experience in NYC when you rotate people off the Council what you get to fill those spots tends to be senior staff. Senior staff may have the institutional knowledge to do the job, but for the most part senior staff tend to be patronage hires from the same places the original council member came from– so you aren’t really freshening anything. What actually happens is that a new(ish) political class is formed. I don’t see that as the solution to any real problem.

    • UncleBluck

      What is it you like about Sam? His affinity for young female interns?

  • ckg1

    Term limits are a wussy way out for people to NOT do their civic duty-and that’s to vote. Yeah, half the time the choice is between Tweedledum and Tweedeldumber, but it’s your responsibility to research the candidates and cast a vote.