Naperville tackling term-limit proposal

Posted6/15/2010 12:01 AM

Naperville voters could decide in November whether to impose term limits on city council members, if a citizens group has its way.

How the measure might get on the ballot, however, remains to be seen.

City council members are expected tonight to debate placing such a measure on the ballot themselves. If the council rejects the plan, a group of residents is gathering signatures for a petition to force a vote on the initiative in the November election.

While several council members favor a limit of three terms or 12 years, the Naperville Voters Education League is proposing a two-term, eight-year maximum for future council members and mayors.

"It's all about giving the people a voice," said Bill Eagan, the group's chairman. "People were talking about it so it was time for someone to step up and get the question asked. It's not whether it passes or fails, but that people got out there and had their say."

The group will need nearly 9,000 signatures from registered Naperville voters to get the measure on the November ballot.

It would take only a simple majority vote of the nine-member council to place the term-limit question on the ballot.

"It's an idea whose time has come for our entire country," Councilman James Boyajian said. "Whether you agree or disagree, I would hope everyone would allow the residents to vote on it."

The council likely will vote on whether to proceed with such a plan tonight, but not on the actual language of the question. Council members who support the proposal don't know if they have enough votes to get it on the ballot.

Council members also would have to decide if the term limits would be retroactive or apply only to future elections. Such limits likely wouldn't apply to candidates until the 2013 municipal election, officials said.

Mayor George Pradel and Councilman Doug Krause have both served more than 12 years. Councilman Dick Furstenau is closing in on 12 years of service.

Furstenau opposes term limits because he believes it empowers city staff and accountability is reduced.

"You don't have any institutional knowledge with term limits and then staff or whoever winds up running the place because nobody is around long enough to grasp stuff and take charge," he said.

Proponents said Naperville is fortunate to have a large supply of residents willing to serve and more residents should be allowed to do so.

"It's difficult for people with fresh ideas to break in without term limits," Councilman Grant Wehrli said.