April 4, 2013
In my column of December 6, 2012 when Lewis Reed, president of the city's Board of Aldermen announced his candidacy for St. Louis mayor, challenging incumbent Francis Slay who is seeking his fourth consecutive term in office, I asked ‘will the race be divisive and will the contest reflect the bitterness of some of the past struggles for control’? The answer is a resounding yes.
Another question was ‘will race and ethnicity be relevant to the determination of who will occupy room 200 in City Hall?’ Again, the answer is a reverberating yes.
I noted the role of ethnic identity and how it frames the formulation of policies related to education, employment, housing, and I emphasized that ethnicity should not play a part in the contest, but it unquestionably did. It seemed race was the predominant and most important concern.
My question now is should St. Louis mayors be limited to two consecutive terms in office? Before Slay, no St. Louis mayor has ever been elected to a fourth four-year term, and only one has tried. Slay becomes the longest serving mayor in the city’s history, surpassing Henry Kiel, who served from April 12, 1913 – April 21, 1925.
The Missouri General Assembly established term limits for their members: four consecutive two-year terms for House members totaling eight years, and two four-year consecutive terms for Senate members, also limiting them to eight years. Office holders may be elected again to the other house, but not serve more than 16 years. Should two consecutive terms be a standard for the City of St. Louis?
Here are some quotes from ‘Debate.org’. When the website asked the question concerning politicians and term limits, here are a few of their quotes:
“I believe there should be a limit on the number of terms an individual can serve in any political office so that the government could consist of public servants rather than career politicians.
Our current system, which allows most political offices to be held for an unlimited number of terms provided the individual receives adequate votes, allows for career politicians whose only goal is to serve their own interests. If we placed a limit on terms, it would allow a proper rotation of citizens serving in office as true representatives of the people and reduce the ease of lobbyists to buy favors from politicians.”
Another said “I am for term limits on elected officials, because it is important for fresh faces to get a higher chance to take office. Most incumbents have a higher chance of winning an election, compared to newcomers.”
One person argued “yes, there should be limits on the number of terms elected officials may serve because we don't want or need career politicians who don't understand the problems facing real people. It would also help reduce the influence of special interest groups because fresh faces will not be as easy to convince to vote a certain way.”
Revered Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center has created a petition for persons to sign who want term limits for mayors and some other local officials. What about the County Supervisor’s office, or local municipalities? Should they face the same limitations as state elected officials? What about your local, county, state or government representatives? Do you have an opinion?
Remember that elections are an opportunity for voters to distinguish between contenders and their vision for the office that they seek. These fundamental rights and these contests should transcend race, age, and gender, but unfortunately they do not in the City of St. Louis, and not always in St. Louis, Madison, St. Clair, St. Charles or Jefferson Counties. The Civil War continues.
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Be Ever Wonderful!