How long should politicians stay in office?

Everybody loves term limits, it seems.

But does it really make sense?

The topic came up at a monthly meeting of past presidents of the Jacksonville City Council.

Jacksonville’s mayor has been limited to two terms since consolidation. Council members and members of the Florida Legislature have been subject to term limits since 1992.

Almost everyone seems to favor extending it to Congress, which will never happen without a constitutional amendment.

One of the ill effects of term limits was noted at the recent meeting, after the subject was broached by speaker Matt Carlucci, who was first elected to the council 35 years ago.

Term limits forced capable people out of the job, such as Jim Overton, Jerry Holland and Mike Hogan. All were effective members of the City Council but could not serve more than eight years.

Now, they rotate between jobs as constitutional officers as property appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections, where they also are term-limited. All are good administrators but that’s not the point.

Everyone fixates on the fact that bad guys can only stay in office for eight years, thus minimizing the damage they can do.

But you also minimize the good that the good ones can do.

Even worse, institutional knowledge takes a blow, which puts more power into the hands of unelected staff members. It also empowers lobbyists.

The argument often used by opponents of term limits usually is brushed off, but it is true and valid: We already have term limits. They are called elections.

The counter-argument, of course, is that an incumbent gains power by granting wishes to the well-connected, which makes it increasingly difficult to vote him out of office.

Voters have to ask themselves. Is it worth forcing out a Nancy Pelosi if you have to lose someone like the popular lifetime congressman from Jacksonville Charlie Bennett?

There is, however, a way to get rid of the awful ones. That is through a recall election. Maybe it should be easier to force politicians to face them.

In the meantime, there are good politicians, like City Council Member Randy DeFoor and former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who do their service and then leave, without making it a career. More should follow suit.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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