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Village Vision News

Board rejects placing term limits issue on April ballot

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The question of imposing term limits for Forsyth’s elected officials will not be decided by voters April 9 – unless at least 8 percent of the Village’s registered voters petition to have the question placed on the ballot.

On Nov. 19, trustees had voted 5-1 to have Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens draft a resolution for a referendum that would limit the offices of mayor and/or trustee to no more than three terms. The intention then was to place the referendum before voters in the April election.

However, at the Dec. 3 Board meeting, trustees Marilyn Johnson and Steve Hubbard dropped their support for the referendum resolution and voted against it. Trustees Eric Morr, Bob Rasho and Kerstin Trachtenberg continued their support for term limits with their votes, while trustee Larry Reed maintained his original position of opposition. This led to a 3-3 tie vote that was broken by Mayor Hap Gilbert, who also opposed the resolution.

“I don’t feel comfortable to put it on the ballot,” Johnson said as she questioned the legality of term limits. She sought Jurgens’ confirmation that imposing term limits could be challenged, even with voter approval, because the Village is a non-home rule municipality.

“Home rule only has the power to grant [term limits] by statute,” Jurgens said. Earlier he cited the lack of clarity in the wording “terms of office.’” Legal questions exist, he said, although there have been no cases to date. He allowed he could make an argument both ways. Hubbard concurred with Johnson and said he didn’t think it was a wise move to put the issue on the ballot.

During the Nov. 19 Board discussion, trustees appeared to agree with the overall concept of term limits, but differences arose with Rasho’s initial proposal of a two-term limit. At that time, Hubbard said he would seek his final second term as a trustee in April, but voiced concern that “…someone who does a great job for eight years and then wants to be mayor” should be permitted to seek the office. Mayor Gilbert said “…three terms sound more reasonable than two terms” and indicated he had no objection to putting the question on the ballot, although he was not in favor of the overall concept at the local level.

Resident Mike Lambdin agreed with the mayor and said Forsyth’s population is not comparable to Chicago and that “term limits for Forsyth is crazy.” Resident Sid Audiffred, who had originally proposed the idea to the board, said term limits must begin at the local level which, in turn, influence the federal and state level.

The failure of the resolution caused trustee Rasho to comment: “We are forfeiting our right to complain about bad politics [without a referendum] … let the voters choose.” He encouraged Audiffred to choose the remaining option by circulating a petition.

Trustees Morr and Trachtenberg echoed Rasho’s concerns about the voters. Trachtenberg said she would “…never substitute my opinion for voters” and called for a referendum while Morr said as a volunteer Board member he hoped “…I never get to the point where I don’t want to hear from the voters.”

A petition to place the term limits issue before voters in April would need to be filed with Village Clerk/ Assistant Village Administrator Kathy Mizer by Jan. 7. At press time, Mizer said she had not received any questions or comments about filing such a petition from residents.

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