Friday, June 20, 2008

Term Limits are Teh Stupid

San Antonio has the most insane term limits restrictions of any municipality in the nation, to the best of my knowledge. Two two-year terms and you’re out. That means the entire city council is automatically rotated out every four years whether they are doing a good job or not.
Thus we are always stuck with an inexperienced city council with no collective memory of things that have gone on before. Therefore, council members have to rely on the city staff for its experience and collective memory to get things done.
Why would we do this to ourselves? Do we like having a city government run by entrenched bureaucrats who do not have to answer to the voters? Because that is effectively what we have now. Whose bright idea was this?
Well, it was partly this reactionary group that got the ball rolling at the behest of this looney bird.

But the real question is whether we are going to continue to listen to these knuckledragging morons, or are we going to at least take some minimal steps to correct the situation.
I think having four two-year term limits is ridiculous, counter-productive and undemocratic. But at least it is better than what we currently have.
The term limits rule has been disenfranchising San Antonio residents by making our elected council members weak and unresponsive to their constituents.
And as this study noted it has even depressed voter participation in city elections.

The implementation of city council term limits in San Antonio since 1991 is clearly associated with lower voter participation in municipal elections turnout. Lower voter participation rates are particularly evident in inner city council districts, while council districts 8, 9 and 10 voters participate in high numbers. In addition, over the period examined, voter registration rates have increased while Spanish surname rates have remained relatively consistent. Overall levels of political efficacy have increased but rates for Mexican Americans and African Americans remain low relative to Anglos. Finally, some members of council have resigned from office to pursue other private and public sector interests rather than complete terms.
The relative competitive nature of city council and mayoral elections in the 1980s called for a greater mobilization of voter effort ("get out the vote" campaigns) and, as a result, seem to have produced a higher turnout rate. With terms limits, municipal elections in the City of San Antonio have witnessed fewer intensive voter mobilization efforts and subsequently lower turnout. Less competitive elections are also associated with less interest, lower levels of participation and lack of political efficacy.

Lack of political efficacy. What does that mean? It means the power or capacity to produce a desired effect (i.e. effectiveness). So our city government is less effective as a result of term limits. I guess there are some who would think this is a good thing, but they would be wrong.
Can you imagine anyone advocating that a business be run in this fashion? Every four years the CEO and his entire executive team is kicked out and replaced with new people who have no experience. Sound like a good plan? Would you invest in that kind of company?

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