CINCINNATI - Cincinnati Council members currently may not serve in office for a period longer than four successive two-year terms, e.g. a total of eight years not counting any appointive service.
The Cincinnati Council Terms Amendment would change the length of term of office for council members from two years to four years. There would be an at-large election every four years for all nine council members.
Term limits would remain in effect. With four-year terms, council members would be prohibited from serving in office for a period longer than two successive four-year terms, e.g. a total of eight years not counting any appointive service.
"[Passing the amendment] would give us the benefit of people focusing on the job,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan in an interview with CityBeat. Quinlivan was the driving force behind getting the amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot. She said she decided to bring up the idea of four-year terms halfway through her first term in 2011.
“(That year) rolled around and I noticed a dramatic change in the way the government runs and the way council members treat one another,” said Quinlivan, who is currently serving her second term on council. “Suddenly people who you could ordinarily work with on some basic things could no longer work with you because it was an election year.”
Quinlivan said four-year terms would allow council members to focus on more complex issues instead of worrying about re-election every other year.
Gene Beaupre, director of government relations at Xavier University and longtime observer of local politics, agrees with Quinlivan’s assessment of the potential benefits of moving to four-year terms.
“Some amount of energy is directed toward your own political future as an elected official, and I think it can impair your ability to have a greater vision,” Beaupre told CityBeat. He said politicians worry more about political victories between elections than long-term goals.
But Beaupre says there are also potential downfalls.
“Arguments go to ‘the purpose of an election is a chance to do a performance appraisal … on your public officials,’” Beaupre said. “Most places you go, those are annual.”
Beaupre says a four-year term would also give greater advantage to incumbents.
“You don’t have to run as frequently, and you have a longer time to make mistakes and have people forget,” Beaupre said.
“I think what voters really want and deserve is more accountability, and I don’t see four-year terms as the right first step to getting there,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld emailed CityBeat in a statement.
Sittenfeld has instead proposed a hybrid system of districts and at-large seats. Districting would involve carving up Cincinnati into districts and having councilors elected from each geographic area, much like the way representatives to the state legislature or Congress are elected.
Quinlivan says Cincinnati is behind every Ohio township and large city, all of which have four-year terms.
“Long after I’m gone from this city council I hope that we have elected officials serving four-year terms,” Quinlivan says. “Now that I’m on this other side I can see how important it is. Before I got on council, I probably wouldn’t have cared.”
Below is how the levy will appear on the ballot:
4 PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT (ORDINANCE NO. 304-2012)
A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage. Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to provide that the members of City Council shall be elected at-large for four-year terms by amending existing Sections 4, 5 and 5a of Article II, “Legislative Power”, existing Section 3 of Article III, “Mayor”, existing Sections 1, 2a and 2b of Article IX, “Nominations and Elections”, and existing Sections 1, 4 and 7 of Article XIII, “Campaign Finance”?
A 'yes' vote extends terms from two years to four years.
A 'no' vote keeps the terms at two years.
9 News and WCPO.com will provide LIVE election results on Nov. 6.
Information from CityBeat was used in this report.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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