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posted: 8/22/2010 12:01 AM

Term limit question should spark debate

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After a Naperville City Council meeting in June, I wrote that the subject of term limits evokes powerful passions on all sides of the discussion.

Time marched on quickly and on July 20, a November referendum question regarding term limits was approved by a 6-3 city council vote.

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On the Nov. 2 ballot, voters will be asked if the mayor and councilmen should be limited to no more than three consecutive 4-year terms.

If the Aug. 9 meeting of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee was an indication of diverse opinion regarding referendum questions, we are headed for a spirited debate during this campaign season.

As we learned that day from Gerry Cassioppi, not only will term limits be questioned, Naperville voters also will be asked to consider district and at-large representation. The Naperville Voters Education League, of which Cassioppi is a member, has been studying the two questions for more than a year.

Cassioppi said the second question was advanced by a successful petition-signing campaign organized by NVEL.

During every recent local election cycle, hopefuls are asked those questions during candidate forums. It's high time for voters to weigh in, once and for all.

I'm hopeful these two questions will energize eligible voters to become engaged in the Nov. 2 election.

Cassioppi said NEVL intends to host discussions and debates this fall to hash out all the pros and cons. He said his group likely will enlist the help of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation to schedule forums.

Over the years, I've had countless conversations with folks about the merits of term limits. One comment continues to resonate. "Why would you want to limit the term of a good experienced public servant? We already have a way to limit terms by voting."

I guess I'm not afraid of term limits because our city has attracted many intelligent people who might serve.

Perhaps term limits would encourage more folks with fresh innovative ideas to run.

I've had people tell me they won't run because there are not term limits.

One potential candidate said he fears he'd get caught up in the prestige, perks, power and the "I know what's best for you" attitude that seems to consume many political careers. He'd be more likely to run with term limits.

The Naperville Park District board is a good example of how shortening each term from six years to four attracted a larger number of quality candidates.

By contrast, some folks say they don't even bother to vote because it's impossible to unseat a longtime incumbent.

A friend recently directed me to Fred Thompson's website, www.fredthompsonshow.com.

In 2003, many of us met the former U.S. senator when he was in Naperville as the featured speaker for the rededication of the Doughboy sculpture in Burlington Square Park.

Over the years I've tended to listen to Thompson's thought-provoking candor and quips when he's been interviewed on the news - probably because I feel as though I know him a little.

"Is it not time for term limits at long last?" asked Thompson on Aug. 10.

"These people feel entitlement... You say, 'We can't lose the experience ...' Experience doing what, for Pete's sake?... Look at the books. Look at the debt. Look at the deficit! Experience doing what?..." he said.

"It's not a matter of experience ... it's a lack of will to do the right thing and feeling that your job is more important than anything else."

That said, our city council can be credited for using a sharp pencil.

But when you consider the state and the nation, I think you've got to admit, Thompson has a point.

Regarding a combination of district and at-large representation for Naperville, at this writing, I'm not pro or con.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: placing term limits on the ballot in Naperville could be the start for a state and national referendum. Who knows how many voters will be pro or con?

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