- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

In a 9-4 vote last week, the D.C. Council overturned a 1994 voter-initiated referendum that placed term limits on council members, the mayor and elected school board members. The referendum, which won 62 percent voter approval, signaled Marion Barry and veteran members of the council to get their acts together. Well, stragglers who didnt get the message must now pay the price.
To both proponents and opponents of term limits, it is the sheer principle of the councils actions that now leaves them, and Mayor Williams, weighing several options. Mr. Williams should be encouraged, of course, to veto the backstabbing legislation for two reasons: The council rejected the notion of another referendum; and because he urged the council to, at the very least, exempt the mayor from the repeal. And, while lawmakers are threatening to overturn a possible veto, the mayor should not back down. It merely means they plan to again ignore his other voters wishes.
Options two and three carry the greatest threat to council members. "I think that there will be some payback for members who voted in favor of this bill," Dorothy Brizill of the private oversight group called D.C. Watch told The Washington Times. "We are still, however, exploring the option of campaigning for a second referendum." That option would call for supporters to petition voters in each ward and generate enough valid signatures to place the issue on the 2002 ballot. The 2002 turnout is widely anticipated, considering it is a mayoral and school board election year.
Yet another option is available to term-limit advocates who cannot wait until 2002. Congress is fully vested with the authority to change election qualifications via the Districts home rule charter and it would serve the jokers on the council right if it did. According to council member Jack Evans, he of the I-dont-like-term-limits school of self-servers, both the 1994 referendum and the subsequent legislation validating it were unconstitutional. Mr. Evans and his cheerleaders have argued that issue over and over and over again. Council members also argued that they have repealed other voter initiatives, including the right-to-shelter law and campaign finance limits. While one can easily argue that the right-to-shelter law helped bankrupt the city, no such argument can be made in favor of repealing the term limits and campaign finance limits. What the council did in both instances was self-serving and flat out wrong. "I think its anti-democratic and undermines our efforts to secure home rule," former council member Bill Lightfoot told The Times. "If our elected officials do not respect our right to vote, then how can we expect anyone else to?" Indeed, dont be surprised if disgruntled voters lobby Congress to overturn the councils anti-democratic action.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide