Arlington Term Limits Advisory Committee faces debate, tension during final meeting

The city council chambers sit in the shade of the sun April 13 in Arlington.

Verbal fireworks were on display at the Term Limits Advisory Committee’s final meeting Thursday.

“Is this North Korea now?” repeated committee member Sinikka Dickerson at one point during a roll call vote. Instead of voting, she asked repeatedly why Arlington Voice Publisher Zack Maxwell was not on the committee.

She submitted her vote on the item later in the meeting. She didn’t want there to be any changes to the current city charter.

Other committee members echoed her dissatisfaction with the previous two meetings’ proceedings and debate continued until they adjourned. The committee voted on its final two items regarding Arlington’s term limits and term lengths and revisited lifetime term limits, which was voted on previously.

Attorney Karen Kennard finished presenting a slideshow that included information about various components to term lengths and term limits. The committee voted on each item as the slideshow progressed.

Such items included consecutive term limits, cooldown periods, term lengths and lifetime limits.

The committee voted on consecutive term limits Thursday, since lifetime term limits were rejected Tuesday. Consecutive term limits limit how many times an elected official can hold office until they enter a cooldown period.

According to a record of Tuesday’s votes, 14 committee members voted against lifetime term limits. That issue was revisited Thursday though because some committee members said they wanted to revisit it.

When the vote was brought up again, committee members voted 12-10 against lifetime term limits.

Committee member Andy Prior advocated for the committee to revisit the item because committee members may have been confused by lifetime limits and consecutive limits. He said deciding against lifetime term limits would be outside of the committee’s charges.

“I fear we are undermining our own recommendation to City Council,” he said.

City attorney Molly Shortall said there was a difference between consecutive and lifetime term limits, but they could both be enacted. The committee did not further explore lifetime term limits because the majority voted against the item.

Term charters can involve either types of limits or both but voting against lifetime limits would not violate the committee’s charges.

A lot of discussion preceded the second vote on lifetime term limits. Kennard interrupted participants when they strayed from discussing term limits.

Committee member Ray Whitworth said the committee was filled with people who would ensure the city’s current terms charter was changed. He began talking about Mayor Jeff Williams when Kennard interrupted him, asking him to stay on topic.

“I am in the bounds, ma’am,” he said. “It’s just not your interpretation of it.”

Committee member Syed Hassan, who voted in favor of lifetime term limits, asked city staff to not list the committee’s vote as a consensus.

“There was no consensus in this committee,” he said.

City staff will present the committee’s voting results to City Council on Tuesday.


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