In some ways, I’m admiring the stand that the Polk County Commission is making regarding term limits.
If you haven’t seen the story from this week’s meeting, you can check them out here from The Ledger.
Without notice, Commissioner Bob English brought up the issue of term limits and salary reductions imposed on commissioners from a countywide vote in 2000. Residents that year decided by a wide margin of more than 70 percent to impose a two-term limit on commissioners and cut their salary in half.
English said on Tuesday that he has been told the term limits are unconstitutional, and the other commissioners unanimously decided to pursue challenging them in court.
According to Tom Palmer’s story, the Florida Supreme Court ruled similar term limit amendments unconstitutional in Pinellas and Duval counties, so on that level alone it looks like the commission has a good case. I’m impressed with the conviction and unity that the Polk commissioners displayed in deciding to challenge the limits in our county.
But that’s where my admiration ends.
Polk County commissioners serve the people of Polk County, not the people of Florida. So even if the state agrees that citizens shouldn’t impose limits on county officials, the people of Polk County have said – by a large majority – that’s the way they feel. I would like to think that our commissioners would respect the wishes of their constituents rather than appealing to a higher authority for reprieve.
Now I can’t change the state constitution, and if a judge or the Supreme Court rule in favor of the county commissioners, then so be it. But we voters should remember come election time what this decision shows us about our commissioners.
It’s funny that English will be term-limited in 2012 and happens to be the one spearheading this thing. He says he’s not sure if he’ll run again, but why go through all of this trouble just to make a point.
Granted, term limits can be unfortunate if a very qualified and successful commissioner is forced out. But that’s done to create opportunity for fresh ideas and leaders to emerge to continue pushing our county forward.
State officials in Tallahassee have term limits, but those are provided for in the state constitution. We’re going to lose an incredibly gifted voice for the people when state Sen. Paula Dockery is term-limited before the next election, but that’s what the people of Florida wanted. Just like the people of Polk County wanted limits on their county officials.
For the limits to be allowed at the county level, another amendment to the state constitution would have to be passed. That would be possible, but with the 60 percent requirement state amendments are always a long shot.
So we’re probably going to be left with imposing term limits ourselves at the polls. If a commissioner or any other elected official hasn’t been able to affect enough positive change in the county in eight years, it should be time for them to go anyway.
Now more than ever, make your vote count.