Vote Yes On Question B (Montgomery County)
Having gained the necessary signatures and overcome all legal challenges, Montgomery County citizens can vote this November on Question B which creates term limits for members of the County Council and the County Executive, proscribing them from serving more than three consecutive four year terms.
The Editors of Red Maryland heartily endorse this measure and urge every voter in Montgomery County to vote YES on Question B.
If passed, Question B would change the Montgomery County Code as follows:
Proposed Changes (proposed new language approved by County Council is in bold):
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Sec. 105. Term of Office Members of the Council shall hold office for a term beginning at noon on the first Monday of December next following the regular election for the Council and ending at noon on the first Monday of December in the fourth year thereafter. In no case shall a Council Member be permitted to serve more than three consecutive terms. Any Member of Council who will have served three or more consecutive terms at noon on the first Monday of December 2018 shall be prohibited from commencing to serve a successive term of office at that time. For purposes of this Section, service of term includes complete service of full term and partial service of full term.
Sec. 202. Election and Term of Office The County Executive shall be elected by the qualified voters of the entire County at the same time as the Council and shall serve for a term of office commencing at noon on the first Monday of December next following the election, and ending at noon on the first Monday of December in the fourth year thereafter, or until a successor shall have qualified. In no case shall a County Executive be permitted to serve more than three consecutive terms. Any County Executive who will have served three or more consecutive terms at noon on the first Monday of December 2018 shall be prohibited from commencing to serve a successive term of office at that time. For purposes of this Section, service of a term includes complete service of a full term and partial service of a full term.
For months, we here at Red Maryland have been chronicling the movement to place this issue before the voters in Montgomery County. While the effort to place term limits is not new (it nearly passed in 2000 [46%] and 2004 [48.6%]) it is fueled this year by the County’s passage of the largest property tax increase in seven years. As our Jerry Rogers described this outrage in May:
The Montgomery County Council gave final approval Thursday to a $5.3 billion budget that included a massive property-tax increase. The tax increase—the largest, most regressive tax hike in seven years—was ratified by the Democratic-only Council in a 9 – 0 vote. The budget, which takes effect July 1, includes a nearly 9 percent boost in property taxes that will add $326 to the average residential tax bill.
The Council took only 30 minutes to pass the property tax increase. There was no discussion, no debate, no dissent. “We made all our speeches last week,” said Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At Large). In great haste on the “get away” day before the Memorial Day weekend, the Council unanimously—without deliberation or public input—passed the largest tax increase in almost a decade.
Council President Nancy Floreen had called the budget process “unprecedented” due to the enormous property tax increase which required a 9-0 council vote because it surpassed the county’s inflation-based charter limit. However, the tax hike—the “unprecedented” tax hike by Ms. Floreen’s own admission—did not deserve a public discussion or a say from the very people the Council is taxing.
Such open contempt for voters can only be maintained by a broken electoral system that sustains a de facto political aristocracy truly unconcerned about electoral consequences. Combining the one-party tilt of Montgomery County elections with self-drawn district lines, members of the Montgomery County Council have little to fear in a general election. Likewise, well established advantages in name recognition and fundraising make a primary challenge a forlorn hope in any but the most extreme cases and then only when the most radical elements or powerful special interests of the Democratic electorate are motivated. Surely, something like a 9 percent rise in property taxes isn’t going to affect the current council members under such a system.
That is why we rebutted the self-righteous bleating of Council President Nancy Floren and Councilmember Marc Elrich and pointed out the unhinged rantings of Councilmember George Leventhal who called the proposal “a dumb, unnecessary protest gesture.” The claims of incumbents who created a system which so clearly rewards incumbency are the rankest of liars when they argue that “elections are the real term limits” and ignore so much data and common sense in claiming that they would be turned out in a general election if they were acting against the wishes of the electorate.
False, too, are the dismissals of this measure as a mere partisan enterprise. Last week, the Montgomery County Civic Federation endorsed the measure. The group represents over 100,000 Montgomery County citizens in a coalition of civic groups and homeowner associations. In supporting the measure, this nonpartisan group of grassroots members cited the property tax increase passed by the council in May as well as 30 percent raises for council members.
While term limits are far from a panacea, passing them takes one link out of the chain that keeps Montgomery County politics more feudal than truly democratic or republican. In the most modest way, given the “limit” still allows for 12 years of service in county office, Question B sends the message that the citizens of Montgomery County do not regard their local government as the bastion of career politicians whose requirement to hold the public trust is their ability to game the system rather than produce results. It will provide for more open elections, necessarily more determined by issues rather than relative advantages of incumbency in a particular election cycle.
More than anything, it sends a message to all Montgomery County politicians that their local government belongs to the citizens and not the political class.
For these reasons, we urge every Montgomery County citizen to Vote Yes On Question B.