The Howard County Times' editorial on Prince George's County's Question D shows that Maryland's neighboring counties know a flim-flam when they see one. Question D on the Prince George's ballot is a ruse that evades term limits without saying so.
/Editorial/Howard County Times/ It was only two years ago that Prince George's County residents voted down an effort to loosen term limits on their political representatives, and already, with Election Day just around the corner, they're faced with the prospect of having to say "no" yet again.
A charter amendment on the county ballot this year, Question D, would add two at-large seats to the Prince George's County Council, which, along with the nine present district representatives, would balloon the body to 11 members.
As written, the plan allows the district reps, after serving their maximum two four-year terms, to run for an at-large position, potentially extending individual careers on the council to up to 16 years.
Supporters — chiefly the council members themselves — say the plan would seat at-large council members with a focus on countywide business, not just those looking to protect their own district interests. They point to neighboring counties, such as Montgomery in Maryland and Arlington in Virginia, that have at-large council seats.
What the council members fail to accept is that the voters who put them in office in the first place have time and again made clear their seats are subject to term limits. They're likely going to vote that way again Nov. 8, and we support them.
As former council member Tom Dernoga pointed out at a recent public forum, the argument that adding at-large representatives would be a corrective to parochialism amounts to council members saying they can't be relied on to do their jobs. District representatives have a responsibility to look out for countywide interests, and if they refuse to take a broader view of their mission on the council they should be marginalized and replaced.
In theory, we're not totally against the idea of at-large representatives. We would welcome a compelling list of examples where not having them damaged the county's interests. Supporters of the amendment say district representatives moving into at-large seats would enable the county to be more competitive on regional boards and be a stronger check on the county executive. Show us more proof.
If the council wants to come back in the future with another plan to add at-large seats, let it respect term limits. That means two terms, maximum, no matter which seats you hold.
[Oct. 28, 2016]
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