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updated: 12/16/2010 10:28 PM

Term limits in Lombard? Vote may come in April

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Lombard residents may get the chance in the spring election to vote on whether their elected officials should be subject to term limits.

The Lombard Village Board discussed term limits for the first time Thursday night and voted 6-0 to draft an ordinance allowing a term limits question to be added to the April ballot. Before the question is added as a referendum, it must receive board approval at the next meeting in January.

Although the vote was unanimous, the idea did not move forward without debate.

Trustee Bill Ware brought forward the possibility of limiting trustees, as well as the village president and village clerk, to serving three successive terms.

"If we're a government of the people, if we vote a referendum, we're giving this question back to the people," Ware said. "So why don't we let the public decide if we as elected officials should have term limits?"

Trustee Dana Moreau said election statistics from 1981 to 2009 prove very few elected officials have served Lombard for more than three terms. Village President William Mueller and two former trustees are the only people to serve four or more consecutive terms during the past three decades.

"What problem are we trying to solve?" Moreau asked. "It looks to me as though there's no need for term limits."

As Village President, Mueller did not vote on the issue. But he said he has concerns about imposing term limits.

"Term limits takes some of that right to vote away from you," Mueller said, because residents can't vote for whom they choose if some candidates are prohibited from being on the ballot.

While Ware said term limits would open up local government and encourage more people to participate, Mueller said other measures, such as ending the practice of trustees appointing their friends to committees they chair, could just as effectively encourage more resident participation.

Trustee Zachary Wilson said term limits could lessen the effect of the incumbent advantage, as more candidates may run if they don't have to face someone who is already established.

Even Mueller and Moreau said they had no problem with getting the public's opinion on whether term limits should be created.

"The case can be made that it's not our decision," Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick said. "We're voting on a decision to let the people make a decision."