Term Limits In Erie County
by Paul Wolf - posted 9:16 am, October 14, 2014
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
- Districts lines are gerrymandered and tilted towards one party or the other
- They typically raise more money
- Able to generate free press
- 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