PDA

View Full Version : City council term limits under review


SteelTown
Mar 18, 2009, 8:51 PM
City council term limits under review

March 18, 2009
Nicole Macintyre
The Hamilton Spectator
http://www.thespec.com/article/531965

If Hamilton trashed its wards and elected councillors at large as it does the mayor, would city hall be more functional?

What if politicians were turfed after two terms?

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is pondering such questions at a new committee dedicated to studying Hamilton's governance.

"We want to help council do a better job," said former councillor and committee member Marvin Caplan. "It's a matter of making it work, instead of having a dysfunctional system."

The committee will review all options for reform, such as term limits and candidate slates, before making recommendations to council.

"It's no big secret the system isn't working," said chair Judy Partridge, who ran unsuccessfully for Flamborough councillor in the last election. "Clearly we need changes."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger couldn't agree more, but notes finding an ideal solution won't be easy.

"Too many councillors are just focused on their wards only and don't keep an eye on the greater interest of the city," he said.

Still Eisenberger adds that in an amalgamated city it is important to represent unique communities. Electing politicians at large might diminish those voices, he said.

Caplan understands the dilemma councillors face when torn between their residents and the interests of the city. But he said too often parochialism wins.

"If you grade councillors on getting re-elected, they're doing great."

Sometimes the very nature of the political system is a "barrier to progress," said committee member and former MPP Trevor Pettit.

Ottawa MPP Norm Sterling believes all of Ontario's big city councils have become dysfunctional.

Earlier this month, the Conservative MPP asked the legislature to strike a committee to look at governance, including the possibility of allowing party politics and term limits, in Ottawa, Mississauga, Toronto and Hamilton. His proposal was defeated by the Liberals, who argued they are already reviewing the Municipal Act.

Sterling believes one of the main issues in local politics is that incumbents are almost invincible.

In the last election, the province's biggest cities re-elected 73 of 75 incumbent councillors, he noted. The two politicians knocked out were defeated by former MPPs, including Brad Clark locally.

In the words of former regional chair Terry Cooke, "as long as they have a pulse," incumbents get in.

Eisenberger campaigned on the idea of two-term limit. He isn't planning to move his proposal any time soon, noting there are bigger hills to climb. Still, he thinks fresh blood would "invigorate" council.

Glanbrook Councillor Dave Mitchell, who has served for 23 years, thinks politicians should be judged on skills, not years in office.

"If you've got a good one, keep 'em."

omro
Mar 18, 2009, 10:25 PM
Interesting.

Not sure I'm a fan of term limits for municipal governments, ok you force out the dross, but you also lose the talent.

Eisenberger is right when he says:

"Too many councillors are just focused on their wards only and don't keep an eye on the greater interest of the city,"

It also seems to me, from a purely outside perspective, that there is a lot of lower city vs suburbs going on and the lower city seems to always lose out due being outnumbered on the council. Do we think there could be a chance that the lower cities issues could possibly become separated from the suburbian issues to allow for a greater focus in these areas or does that set a dangerous precident?

bigguy1231
Mar 19, 2009, 6:39 AM
Last I heard we live in a democracy, and in a democracy anyone who is a citizen can run as many times as they want. It's up to the electorate to get rid of the useless ones. If you do not vote you get what you pay for so to speak.

bornagainbiking
Mar 19, 2009, 10:29 AM
Here we go again, A plan to take the responsibility of the consequences of our unused right to vote and elect a representative that is best for the job.
You deserve what you get and if you don't vote you can't complain.
I am not happy with the current council but if we turf them all out the initial period until they get their sea legs could cost us a mint. Their novice mistakes or inexperience (learning curve) could have some major long term effects on the city and the budget.
We need a mix and get rid of the dead wood.
WE have no-one to blame but ourselves for some of the alderpeople we have now.
So fixed term would solve one problem but removes the area of blame where it belongs with the taxpaying-voting public.
Also we need some credible alternatives.
So it is the organized incumbant that gets in because they want it bad enough to set up a team and lobby for the votes and there is no organized alternative. They know the rules and the game so that is one reason they return.
So if you feel strong enough about a change;
find a candidate;
organize their team;
hit the bricks;
reap the rewards.

Good luck because it is a major time for change
Bratina for Mayor :banana:

coalminecanary
Mar 19, 2009, 1:35 PM
I'm not exactly sure how term limits can be done in a fair and democratic way, but I do know one thing, 20 years on council is WAY TOO LONG.

The problem with thinking about it from a pure 100% democratic standpoint is that the longer someone is in power, the easier it is to stay there - especially if they pander to their biggest donors above all else. So corruption is basically encouraged as an efficient way of keeping your cushy job. So having no limits seems democratic, but when it's impossible for the race to be fair, then it's not really. I think that this danger outweighs the danger of term limits being less democratic.

Perhaps one way to attack it is to allow a maximum of consecutive terms. So after 2 you are out. But once someone else is in for at least 1 term you are allowed to run again. Something like that.

Another major problem is a lack of long term vision. Why plan for 15 years down the road when it's unlikely you'll be around to receive the pat on the back?

markbarbera
Mar 19, 2009, 9:11 PM
Perhaps our problems are caused by having too many politicians looking to be around for the pat on the back. I'd much rather choose a councillor who quietly does his job right over the one who's there for the glory and the limelight.

matt602
Mar 19, 2009, 9:58 PM
Last I heard we live in a democracy, and in a democracy anyone who is a citizen can run as many times as they want. It's up to the electorate to get rid of the useless ones. If you do not vote you get what you pay for so to speak.

Hi Sam Merulla, glad you found SSP alright :D

bigguy1231
Mar 21, 2009, 6:45 PM
Hi Sam Merulla, glad you found SSP alright :D

Despite the fact that I despise Sam Murella, I will not take your comment as an insult but rather a testament to your obvious lack of understanding or is it disregard of the democratic system.

If you don't like politicians that don't share your views then run against them. If the electorate thinks you have something to say that will make them vote for you they will. People won't vote unless they are inspired to do so, especially in municipal elections. If you can't raise funds to run against an incumbent it's probably because the message you are sending does not appeal to those willing to give the money. Don't blame those willing to contribute for your lack of ability to attract support or funding. The same rules apply to everyone.

Putting limits on terms simply because some people are more successful at attracting votes than others is clearly undemocratic. We should not be punishing our elected officials because of their successes. As I said in my earlier post it is up to the electorate to get rid of the useless ones.

adam
Mar 21, 2009, 6:59 PM
Sam, its okay!

omro
Mar 21, 2009, 7:45 PM
Putting limits on terms simply because some people are more successful at attracting votes than others is clearly undemocratic.

And yet american presidents are only allowed to serve two terms.

I could understand if the Mayor had a term limit, though in the current system the Mayor seems to not have much power to guide municipal policy. The remainder of the council shouldn't have term limits.

matt602
Mar 21, 2009, 8:35 PM
Despite the fact that I despise Sam Murella, I will not take your comment as an insult but rather a testament to your obvious lack of understanding or is it disregard of the democratic system.


Well yah you could do that or, you know, you could take it as a joke as it was intended. :tup:

bigguy1231
Mar 21, 2009, 8:47 PM
Well yah you could do that or, you know, you could take it as a joke as it was intended. :tup:

Never joke about Sam. Cry maybe, but not joke.:cheers:

SteelTown
Mar 21, 2009, 9:40 PM
For me I much rather have council focusing and bargaining on getting representation by population and eliminating area rating than having an equal balance with urban and suburban wards. After that deal with term limits.

bigguy1231
Mar 21, 2009, 11:35 PM
For me I much rather have council focusing and bargaining on getting representation by population and eliminating area rating than having an equal balance with urban and suburban wards. After that deal with term limits.

I tend to agree with you. Besides that I don't think the city is in a position to set term limits. That would be a provincial responsibility. They would have to amend the municipal act. Then they would have to fight the ensuing challenges in court and win.