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updated: 3/31/2011 1:50 PM

Lombard seeks voter input on term limits

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Lombard voters will find a nonbinding referendum question about term limits on their ballots Tuesday.

But even if the majority of voters support the idea, the proposed limits would have to pass the hurdle of another referendum -- this one binding -- and wouldn't be introduced right away.

Some village board candidates are calling the referendum a "question to see if we should have a question," as it effectively asks whether voters would like to see in a later election a binding referendum about term limits for village president, clerk and trustees.

The proposal would limit those elected officials to three consecutive 4-year terms. If the limits are approved, they would not apply to officeholders until the first time they are elected after the policy takes effect. At that point, candidates would each be eligible for three more consecutive terms.

None of the five candidates running for two village board seats say term limits are a terrible idea and should not be considered. But that's where the similarities between their views end.

Peter Breen, David Brown and Jeff Shuert are squaring off for the District 4 seat left open by trustee Dana Moreau, who is not seeking re-election, while District 5 incumbent Laura Fitzpatrick faces a challenge from James Hogan.

Hogan comes closest to saying term limits are a poor idea, calling the topic "a nonissue." He questions why current trustees did not draft a binding referendum if they want term limits to begin.

Shuert agreed, saying the nonbinding referendum is effectively a "fancy, extensive survey."

"It needs to be clear: it's not binding. Nothing necessarily will happen," Shuert said, adding he believes term limits are fine as an aspect of a good government model.

Brown said he is in favor of asking voters and using their opinions to decide whether term limits should be imposed.

"If the people of the village of Lombard want to have term limits, I think the village should implement those term limits," Brown said.

Fitzpatrick said she personally supports the idea.

"From the top down, I think it's a good idea," she said.

Breen said he plans to vote for the measure.

"I think the proposal that's been put forth is a reasonable proposal. It's a very mild form of term limits," Breen said.

Timing of the nonbinding referendum is the only concern Breen has heard. He said the village may only be able to gather the thoughts of a few residents if voter turnout for Tuesday's local election is low.

Fitzpatrick said the village can counter the effects of low voter turnout by educating voters about what the referendum really means.

"I'm very concerned about throwing referendums up and not educating the public," Fitzpatrick said.

She said the community relations committee, which she chairs, has spearheaded some voter education efforts and will continue those if voters support the idea of term limits and a binding referendum is added to a later ballot.