City Council members on Tuesday balked at the idea of term limits for City Council members, but agreed to further discuss the idea of moving the city elections from March to August.
Councilman Jack Benson said there needs to be "some continuity" on the council, especially when there is a change in administration as will occur soon.
Councilman Manny Rico was opposed, saying, "I hope people don't think I'm just trying to keep my job. I don't need this job." He said he could be making more money by spending more time on his monuments business.
He stated, "It's hard to get good honest people to serve - even on boards."
Councilwoman Pam Ladd said council members "do have a shelf life and there is a time for new eyes." But she said if she set a limit it would be three terms, not the two terms favored by Councilwoman Deborah Scott.
On moving the elections, Councilwoman Scott said only Collegedale still has March elections. She said there are a number of benefits and the sole drawback is that it would cause one mayor to be shorted about eight months of a normal four-year term.
Councilman Rico said he had no problem with the proposal.
Councilman Andrae McGary recommended that the council set a special meeting in which the public could provide input.
City Attorney Mike McMahan said the council needed to act quickly in order to get the matter on the November ballot.
Referendums of the voters would be required for both Scott proposals before they would go into effect.
She outlined the proposals:
Aug/Nov Council Election Mayor Election
Referendum # 1 Moving Chattanooga Election Date
1. Increases city election voter turnout in city elections.
- More voters vote in presidential elections, than any other race.
- Only 18% voted in the last Chattanooga city race. This is typical city voter turnout.
- The cold, wind and rain of March, does not encourage citizens voters to go vote. Better voting weather Aug/Nov.
2. Change would pair all Hamilton County cities (except Collegedale) with the August/November presidential election dates.
3. Potential cost savings for city of Chattanooga, election commission, and county, since early voting stations are already in use for August and November federal and county races. Better cost sharing.
4. Change would decrease the total number of election campaign cycles (sign clutter & phone calls) for Chattanooga citizens.
5. Current city elections are early March and April 14. After 2016, election campaigning would cease to conflict with Thanksgiving, December, New Year's, and tax return season.
Minor Disadvantage: Proposed change would temporarily shorten the next term for Mayor-City Council (8 months) to rotate allow rotation with Presidential election cycle.
Referendum #2 Term Limits
1. Term limits - defined as 2 consecutive terms. A single 'term' defined as any term lasting 3 years or more.
2. Effective date for 'term limit' start could be August 2016.
- Encourages new candidate participation and voter turnout. Decreases unopposed races.
- Levels the playing field when running against incumbents, who usually have name recognition and generous campaign donations that normally go to incumbents.
- Returns local legislative government branch from semi-permanent office holders to a 'citizen legislature.'