- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

The D.C. Council wants to repeal Initiative 49, the 1994 ballot question that limits the mayor, lawmakers and elected school board members to two consecutive terms. The lawmakers open the door for their self-serving devilment with the "Consecutive Term Limitation Amendment Act of 2001," or Bill 14-25. The bill proposes amending the 1955 D.C. election code to limit the mayor to two consecutive terms at least that is all it said at press time.

The chief sponsor of the bill is Ward 2 council member Jack I-personally-don´t-like-term-limits-and-I-still-want-to-be-mayor Evans. Ten of his 12 colleagues endorsed the measure, which means if and when they vote it is essentially veto-proof (although Mayor Williams has said "I believe that term limits are appropriate" on the mayor). Bill 14-25 does not yet address limits on council members, and it says nothing about limits on school board members.

There are two schools of thought on why the bill only addresses the mayor. First, and the most obvious reason, is there has to be a bill for the council to hold public hearings and get on-the-record comments. Second, to ensure Mr. Williams is prohibited from running a third time after he wins in 2002.

Some Bill 14-25 cosponsors tried to explain during a March 12 public hearing why they oppose term limits. Council member Phil Mendelson´s reasoning is a perfect example of their regurgitated responses. "I believe term limits militate against having good legislators, may create instability in government, and that voters should decide who stays and goes from office by election."

What´s this first-termer´s message? That it doesn´t matter who´s mayor because lawmakers do all the real work? Is it a Democratic Party thing, because the Democratic State Committee failed to beat back the 1994 term limits initiative. What if Mr. Mendelson´s message is that good-citizen candidates such as Ward 3´s Kathy Patterson, her predecessor Jim Nathanson, and his predecessor Polly Shackleton, to name a few make lousy lawmakers? Perhaps Mr. Mendelson is saying that majority-white districts, which Ward 3 is, are the only districts that know a "good" citizen lawmaker when they see one.

Is that why D.C. voters are encouraging political strategist Donna Brazile, who is black, to run against Mr. Mendelson, who is white, in 2002? To be sure, a Brazile victory would quiet some folks who oppose term limits particularly those (black and white folks) who claim term limits dilute the black vote.

On the other hand, term limits send several messages, and career politicians´ least favorite is the one sent before votes are tallied, the one that tells potential officeholders, "Don´t get too comfortable in any particular seat."

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