In a town that struggles to get more than two candidates for open seats, Star Valley Councilor George Binney doesn’t want anyone including himself holding office for more than two terms. Binney figures if you limit terms, more people will run.
The Star Valley council disagreed and voted down Binney’s proposal. Term limits have always provoked furious debate.
While the President is limited to two terms, federal lawmakers can serve an unlimited number of terms. When someone is reelected enough, they are often called career politicians. The issue is whether term limits promote new ideas by bringing in new blood or shut out successful, knowledgeable politicians.
Binney likes the idea of term limits, arguing it gives other citizens a chance to run and get their voices heard. However, most towns and cities do not place limits on the number of terms mayors and council members can serve.
The only limited terms in Arizona are for state senators, representatives, Supreme Court judges and the governor.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Binney urged the council to be one of the first towns to set term limits. “I think people need a chance to run, it is good for new ideas,” he said, “and it limits people from being 30-year mayors.”
Binney added his only concern was that there might not be enough interested people among the town’s 2,000 residents.
Currently, a handful of people volunteer for town committees and show up at council meetings.
“We have the same old faces show up,” he said. “We need to give new blood an opportunity to run.”
Binney suggested setting a two-term limit with the option of running again if no one signed up to take the seat.
Mayor Bill Rappaport said setting limits would set a precedent.
“No one else in Arizona has done it,” he said.
Councilor Gary Coon said he did not like the idea of term limits. “You assume after eight years you have run out of ideas,” Coon said.
Binney added term limits would not limit people from running again in the future; they would just have to sit out two years.
Councilor Vern Leis said Star Valley’s issue is not term limits, but getting more people involved in town government.
“The town needs to be realistic and figure out how to draw more people,” Leis said, “Limiting terms does not enhance that.”
Leis asked Binney if he thought limiting terms would really increase participation. “I don’t think it is,” Leis said.
“You are probably right if you look at it that way,” Binney said.
The council voted down the resolution to limit terms with only Vice Mayor Del Newland and Binney in favor.
In other action, the council decided to hold off on three water crossing studies.
While the town understands it desperately needs water crossings at Valley Road, Sprague Ranch and Old Moonlight Drive to deal with flood control, it is reluctant to spend money given the current state of the economy.
On top of economic woes, the council recently paid more than half million for road paving and is expecting a $64,000 decrease in state shared revenue.
One councilor pointed out they could be upside down in their finances if they keep laying out money for projects.