- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

Shh. Listen. Do hear you it? It is that sorry refrain, "Term limits are unfair." The whining started a couple of weeks ago, when this newspaper ran an editorial breaking the news that the D.C. Council would soon be entertaining legislation to overturn a 1994 voter initiative on term limits.

Initiative 49, which won 62 percent voter approval, limits the city's mayor, D.C. Council members and Board of Education members to two consecutive four-year terms. It does not prohibit any of those elected officials from running for other seats, nor does it prohibit those officials from ever seeking office again.

It is not unfair, nor is it unreasonable, to limit how many terms an elected official can hold. The president of the United States is restricted to two consecutive four-year terms. Some states have restrictions on their governors and state officials. For example, the governor of Virginia cannot seek re-election to that office regardless of his popularity or how well he executes his duties.

Frankly, the only folks who view term limits as being unfair are professional politicians and people who don't know any better.

In the District that list includes Jack Evans, who has represented Ward 2 on the council since 1991 and cannot seek re-election because of the 1994 term limits law, and Linda Cropp, an educator turned career politician. Mrs. Cropp won her first four-year term as council chairman in 1998, won a special election as council chairman in 1997, was an at-large member for nearly two terms before that and was an elected member of the Board of Education before that.

Also on that list is Vincent Orange. Mr. Orange, a lawyer, spent much of his adult life pursuing elected office. Ward 5 voters finally gave him the go-ahead in 1998. However, I must note, his was more an anti-incumbent victory than a we-like-Vincent-vote. (But don't tell him that.)

The fact of the term limits matter is the city's elected potentates, whether in office two years or 20 years, have grown accustomed to the trappings of political life and don't want the ruling class to take them away.

Professional politicians try to make you feel comfortable, and a little guilty, too, come election day. They do so by helping you with your special problem. They call public works on your behalf if your trash isn't picked up as scheduled. They pay for a contractor to shovel you out of a blizzard if the city fails to do the job. They might even help get your ailing grandmother set up in a meals-on-wheels program. Bless, their political hearts. They love being "public servants."

But let's be real. They do that so, come election day, you will return a favor. The heart and soul of a political machine is not name recognition (although that helps) or money (which professional politicians cannot do without). Career politicians are smart businessmen, which means they aim to please you, the customer.

Of course, that does not necessarily mean they are doing their jobs. In fact, it means they cannot do what they were elected to do. They cannot because if, say, all 13 members of the D.C. Council legislated so that the city actually worked more efficiently, you know what would happen. Voters would eventually figure out the real sham.

For example, take the control board. Congress created the control board and President Clinton appointed its members to get the city out of several jams, the most serious of which was a fiscal crisis. Well, the crisis was created by 14 people: the mayor, who spent the money; and the council, which decided how it should be spent. Well, the crisis is no more, Marion Barry is gone, the control board is being phased out and voters instituted term limits to end the recycling of career politicians. In other words, open the doors for competition.

Now the council wants to change the rules, rules the council for years refused to change. That's right. Every time a council member broached the subject of term limits in the 1990s, the legislation was shot down. Once, during legislative debate in 1990, the majority of council members considered term limits for the mayor (that is, Marion Barry) and the school board (which had been inept for some time) but certainly not the legislature.

So, dear readers, it seems the hypocrites are at it again, attempting to ignore the blatant conflict of interest and prerogatives of the ruling class. They want to ignore the rules, initially written by Congress with the consent of the District's ruling class, and subsequently changed by 62 percent of D.C. voters.

Are you going to take this lying down? Or are you going to drown out the professional wailers and demand that Congress protect your rights?


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