apparently a referendum was passed in the 90's to limit the terms of elected officials, but the elected officials voted it down (how is that possible?). i think it is time to resurrect this idea.
When a City Council Repealed Term Limits
For months, the City Council debated whether to repeal term limits, which voters had approved in a referendum in the 1990s. Critics said some members of the City Council were simply trying to hold onto their jobs. Others said that term limits were poor public policy and restricted voters’ choices.
New York City in 2008? No. Washington, D.C., in 2001.
In 2001, as a reporter for The Washington Post, I covered the debate over term limits in the nation’s capital. In a 1994 referendum, 62 percent of voters in the District of Columbia agreed to impose a limit of two consecutive four-year terms on the mayor and members of the City Council and the Board of Education.
In some ways, the 1994 referendum had been a strange outcome. That same year, the city’s voters gave a fourth term to Marion S. Barry Jr., a former three-term mayor whose political career had seemed to be derailed by his 1990 arrest and subsequent conviction on drug charges.
By 2001, Mr. Barry had retired and been replaced by Anthony A. Williams, a reformist, bow-tie-wearing numbers cruncher who was elected in 1998 after rescuing the city from near-bankruptcy as its chief financial officer.
The term limits law in Washington took effect in 1995 and would have forced five council members from seeking reelection in 2004 and seven in 2006.
Momentum to repeal the term limits gained steam in early 2001. One councilman, Jack Evans, noted that more than 50,000 of the 186,311 voters who cast ballots in the 1994 referendum recorded no opinion on term limits.
But at a public hearing, most people who testified assailed the effort to repeal term limits. “The people have spoken, whether we agree or disagree,” said Wilhelmina J. Rolark, a former councilwoman who argued that term limits gave more residents a chance to fill the city’s relatively few elected positions. (The District of Columbia has no senators and one nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives. Its government was directly under federal control until 1973, when it achieved limited home rule.)
Mayor Williams did not support repealing term limits, and specifically asked that if the Council went ahead and abolished the limits that it exclude the office of the mayor.
The Council disagreed. On June 5, 2001, the Council voted, 9 to 4 — a veto-proof majority — to abolish the term limits for all elected officials. “If citizens don’t want someone, they vote them out,” the Council chairwoman, Linda W. Cropp, said.
The front-page headline in The Washington Post the next day: “District Term Limits Tossed; Council Reverses Voters’ Decision In Referendum.”
Although term limits had been invalidated by several courts, it marked one of the first times an elected body had overturned a term-limits initiative without the consent of voters, Paul Jacob, national director of U.S. Term Limits, said at the time.
Since then, several legislatures have repealed term limits, including Idaho in 2002 and Utah in 2003.
Although term limits were abolished, the City Council has undergone much turnover. Only 5 of the current 13 members were on the Council back in 2001. Ms. Cropp, who was chairwoman of the Council when term limits were ended, ran for mayor in 2006 but lost in the Democratic primary to a councilman,Adrian M. Fenty, who went on to succeed Mr. Williams.