One of the reasons given for the term limit extension for our county leadership is that our elected officials need more time to fully learn their complicated jobs.
I don’t know about you all, but I think eight years is plenty of time to learn a job, no matter how complicated. If our elected officials need eight years to learn the job, they really aren’t up to the job and clearly did not have enough experience when they got elected.
In short: Our county leadership positions are not for slow learners.
From where I am sitting, it seems clear to me that the underlying message our county leadership is sending to us voters about the term limit extension is this: “We are doing a good job, so we deserve more time in office.”
While I agree that the County Executive and County Council deserve credit for the current positive trajectory in Prince George’s County, this reasoning also leads to the most obvious objection to the term limit extension idea: Without term limits, none of our current county leaders would be in office. In our system of incumbent slates and “sample ballot” advertisements, it is virtually impossible for an incumbent to lose an election. Without term limits, Rushern Baker and Mel Franklin would only be waging hopeless campaigns against long-term incumbents.
It has been good to see that the term limit extension has been getting some media coverage. Yours truly was interviewed for a Laurel Leader/Baltimore Sun piece this past week. The Gazette ran a while back a similar story on the topic.
In my view, the most interesting stories have been about the struggle at the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee whether to endorse the term limit extension. The topic was so contentious that it was tabled at the first meeting. In the second meeting, the Central Committee relented after debate and decided to endorse the term limit extension on the party’s “official” sample ballots.
It will be interesting to see if the sample ballot endorsements will be enough to take the term limit extension over the finish line. Knowing the power of our sample ballots, I am worried.
When politicians propose changes that provide significant benefits to themselves, they often try to convince voters that the proposed changes somehow make the system better. For example, when politicians vote themselves a pay increase, they argue that the raise will help attract qualified candidates. However, such arguments sound hollow if a politician himself or herself benefits from the change. To avoid the appearance of a proposal being self-serving, such changes are often made applicable only to future elected officials—not the politicians making the change.
When it comes to the current proposal to extend term limits for the Prince George’s County Council members and the County Executive, our politicians made no effort to make the change only apply to future Council members and County Executives. Thus, the term limit extension proposal is a blatantly self-serving move.
When I also consider the Council’s recent proposal to give itself—and the County Executive—hefty raises, I’m starting to think one term is all this crop of politicians deserve.