Thursday, September 1, 2016

Term Limits

Statement Regarding 2016 Term Limits Ballot Question By Sharon L. Cohen

Before the August 24, 2016 Meeting of the Montgomery County Charter Review Commission
Good morning. I am Sharon Cohen and am speaking this morning in support of term limits for members of the County Council and the County Executive. My comments are solely mine as a private individual and are not representative of or on behalf of any organization. I appreciate the Charter Review Commission’s (CRC) opportunity to speak this morning.
There are two pathways in Montgomery County whereby Charter changes may be put on the ballot. One is by recommendation of this body the CRC -- and second is through the citizen petition process.  These pathways are mutually exclusive and while individual members of the CRC may have their own personal views on the term limits question -- for or against -- the public has spoken loud and clear. Reportedly, 18,000 registered voters in Montgomery County signed the petition.  It’s my understanding just yesterday, the Board of Elections has certified a sufficient number of those signatures (only 10,000 validated signatures was required) that the term limit question to limit the County Council members and the County Executive to no more than three terms or 12 years office will be put to the voters this November.
The only opinion that matters now is that of the voters.  So what should voters know about term limits.

·         Term Limits are Very Common

o   The President of the US is limited to two terms.
o   Maryland’s Governor is limited to two terms. And 35 other states (a majority of US states) have term limits for their Governors.
o   Major cities across the US, including Houston, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles -- just to name a few have term limits for elected city officials.
o   All jurisdictions around Montgomery County Prince Georges, Howard,    Frederick —as well as Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s, Harford and Baltimore Counties, all have some form of term limits for their local elected officials.
o   "The ancient Greeks and Romans were the first societies to implement term limits. They believed that a change of leadership periodically was good for government.” National Association of Counties, 2011 publication.

·         Term Limits Will Drive Participation of Citizen Legislators

o   Abraham Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg Address said that our country following the Civil war would have “a new birth of freedom” and that     “the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” It’s the people-- that is citizens and not career politicians -- who need to come first by participating as citizen legislators.
o   Term limits promotes opportunity for average citizens to run for office and actually win because open seats will become routine.

o   Voter participation is at an all time low in the county, “just 16.2 percent of Montgomery County's 630,000 voters cast ballots,” the lowest county turnout in the entire state. AP June 26, 2014.

o   Perhaps when career politicians run and win each election, citizens feel the current political system without term limits is a stacked deck, so why bother voting.

 ·         Term Limits are an Important Check on the Power of Incumbency

o   The power of incumbency is an overriding and powerful force in politics.

Incumbents have the bully pulpit, they have easy access to the press, special interests try to curry favor with them, and they have an overwhelming advantage when it comes to fundraising.

o   This privilege of incumbency must be checked; otherwise an entrenched and elitist political class is created.

o   Term limits helps create a level-playing field where average citizens can run for office and the advantages of incumbency are removed.

o   And it’s good for politicians to return to average citizen status from time to time, as “Surely, the ‘experience’ of living as a private citizen under the rules and taxes one voted for as a legislator is just as valuable and instructive, if not more so, than the experience of cooking up those rules and taxes in the first place." Lawrence Reed 2001, Why Term Limits, President of the Foundation for Economic Education

·       Term Limits Have Bipartisan Support

o   Of the 18,000 petition signatures in Montgomery County, over 60 percent were registered Democrats, Independents and/or unaffiliated voters.

o   The proof of that bipartisan support will come post election, when registered voters in Montgomery County regardless of party affiliation vote to limit the terms of the County Council and Executive.


  1. Payback for 9% property tax raises on federal employees whose pay has been essentially frozen for a decade is coming.

  2. Those of us in the private sector saw our raises frozen for years as well. The only ones who got hefty raises were the county council members themselves and their cronies. They then favored their cronies with invented jobs, and those cronies are paid the highest salaries in the nation. Let's not forget the county government is the largest employer in the county, if you include MCPS. Plenty of money to go around. Just not for you.

  3. Thank you for publishing this testimony. I have linked to the Parents' Coalition blog at SaveWestbard,, and I've included Sharon Cohen's testimony on our Term Limits page,

  4. This is the only way to break one party rule around here.


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