04/03/06 — Term limits? The issue has pros and cons

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Term limits? The issue has pros and cons

Term limits? A good case can be made for them — for congressmen, for legislators and undoubtedly for some other offices. We already have them for presidents and governors.

Why not for all public officeholders?

Prolonged positions of influence in public office can lead an to understandable — perhaps inevitable — sense of power.

And that power can lead to a heady arrogance — opening the door to a dictatorial attitude.

We have seen it happen. Term limits would remove the threat.

But there is a down side to that solution.

Experience in public office can be an invaluable asset — to the officeholder and to the constituency. It can be important to a county, a state and to the nation. Just as experience is vitally important to managing a successful private business.

Developing the art of governance can be challenging and time-consuming. Much can be learned from books, but nothing beats hands-on experience.

This is important in examining and understanding budgets and in becoming knowledgeable of the limitations of governing.

Newly elected officials usually, and wisely, spend their first year or two observing their more seasoned colleagues and gaining insights through contacts with veteran staff members and department heads.

This does not have to result, as some might suggest, in guaranteeing a continuation of bad government. While learning the ropes in Washington or Raleigh or at city hall, the elected official also must be conscious of the need to constantly monitor the pulse of his or her constituency.

As citizens, we should monitor the performance of those we elect. And the public tends to do that.

The result is that we keep in office those who represent us well — and replace those who fail to do so.

Term limits?

Perhaps applying them on an individual basis rather than having a set-in-stone time to terminate one’s tenure is a better approach.

The truth of the matter is that voters decide the issue of “term limits” on each congressman, legislator, county commissioner or alderman at every election.

Published in Editorials on April 3, 2006 11:03 AM