Grass-roots organization urging commission to OK term limits referendum


Published: Monday, June 30, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission soon will revisit the possibility of placing a measure proposing eight-year term limits for commissioners on the November ballot — something U.S. Term Limits, a Florida-based organization, supports.

U.S. Term Limits, a grass-roots advocacy organization based in Palm Beach, has sent a letter from its president, Philip Blumel, to the County Commission urging the board to put the charter-amendment initiative for term limits on the ballot.

Alachua County Citizens for Accountable Government, a Newberry-based political action committee, has been promoting the initiative for eight-year term limits as well as another one for single-member districts, both for the County Commission.

Last week, the commission decided against adding the measure for single-member districts to November’s ballot for voters to decide upon, but the board will continue discussion on the term limits issue at a meeting later this month to determine whether to put that initiative on the ballot.

The term limits proposal would hold county commissioners to two consecutive four-year terms in office.

A county charter amendment can be put on the ballot through the petition process if nearly 16,500 signatures are collected as required, but that deadline has passed for the locally based PAC.

At this point, getting the term limits initiative put on the November ballot would require a supermajority vote of the County Commission.

Walt Boyer, chair of Alachua County Citizens for Accountable Government, recently told The Sun the group expects the term limit amendment to be defeated by the commission. With the term limits measure seemingly unlikely to get a favorable supermajority vote from the board, the PAC is looking to 2016 as its next opportunity.

U.S. Term Limits is clear in its support for moving forward with the measure this year in Alachua County in its letter, which is addressed to Commissioner Lee Pinkoson, chair of the board.

Term limits aren’t an experiment but rather a “time-tested reform that improves representation and governance,” according to the letter.

Blumel of U.S. Term Limits listed several benefits of term limits in his letter, including encouraging competitive elections, decreasing the power of special interests and creating more opportunities for people to run for office and take part in meaningful campaigns.

Blumel acknowledged in his letter that there is a measure of personal sacrifice involved on the part of elected officials in accommodating the public regarding this particular matter.

“It is a measure of integrity that you would facilitate a vote,” he wrote. “I urge you to rise to the occasion.”

Pinkoson told The Sun he personally doesn’t favor term limits but that this is a fundamental issue dealing with the way government runs, so it shouldn’t be up to him to determine how that works.

The term limits measure probably isn’t going to go anywhere though unless someone on the board changes their vote since a 4-1 supermajority decision is needed to move it forward, he said. He is supportive of putting the initiative on the ballot so voters can decide whether they want to establish term limits for their county commissioners.

“I’m not going to change my vote,” Pinkoson said. “It’ll still be ‘Let the people decide how they want it to work.’ ”

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