This past election on November 8 has brought political upheaval, both nationally and locally. Question B, the charter amendment limiting county council and executive positions to three consecutive terms, passed with resounding support from about 69% of Montgomery County voters.
Voters have likely seen the ubiquitous signs on the sides of roads trumpeting, “Vote Yes on Question B”. The measure originated from local activist and Republican Robin Ficker, who also sponsored two similar initiatives in 2000 and 2004. However, both had failed to pass or generate much traction in local politics.
Last year, Ficker collected 17,000 signatures to place the initiative on the public ballot. The measure received increased support from some frustrated Democratic and Independent groups. Some MoCo residents formed a coalition to support the initiative.
Many voters base their support for the initiative on recent County Council decisions they found unsatisfactory, including a property-tax increase and raise in council-members’ salaries. Jim Zepp, president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, voiced his concerns to WAMU, stating: “There’s not only been a property tax increase that’s was quite substantial, but they raised other fees that people are getting hit with”.
The term limits initiative has resulted in increased political activism among Montgomery County citizens. According to WAMU 88.5, Ficker asserted, “There really is a move by the voters to have fresh ideas and have change.” Some Republicans in Montgomery County, who constitute a slim minority, hope that through imposing term limits, they will be represented by a voice in the county government.
Leading the opposition to the amendment was Tom Moore, a former Rockville City Council member. He challenged the legitimacy of some of the signatures and Ficker’s petition-gathering methods and brought the case to circuit court. Circuit Court Judge Greenberg ruled against Moore, and the Maryland Court of Appeals declined to hear the case.
Moore’s “No on B” effort won the support of the Montgomery County Education Association. According to Bethesda Magazine, Moore said, “I think the people who voted for term limits don’t realize that that change is not going to bring the policy outcomes they’re hoping for, because studies have shown over and over again that they don’t.”
A common argument against the term limits initiative is that elections serve essentially as term limits. Some voters also worry that the term limits initiative was a partisan move, as the Republican Party has not been successful in winning elections for county executive or seats on the currently all-Democratic County Council.
As a result of the passage of the term limits initiative, county council president Nancy Floreen and members Roger Berliner, George Levanthal, and Marc Elrich are ineligible to run for reelection in 2018. County executive Ike Leggett, who is in his third term, had previously expressed that he would not run again.
Some of the opposition for the initiative comes from the council members themselves. Elrich, one of the council members who is barred from reelection, is worried by the potential increase in competition for the open seats in 2018. According to WAMU 88.5, he said, “It’s a lot of turnover. I would expect to see people with a lot of money parachute into races.”
According to the Washington Post, Berliner asserted, “The political environment today being so hostile to government makes term limits more appealing to people, even though I don’t think it accomplishes its fundamental goals.”
Junior Brent Jamsa of Quince Orchard High School is a firm supporter of term limits. “I support term limits because it allows for fresh ideas and faces to come to the forefront,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue, people of all parties supported this measure.”
Similarly, sophomore Sean Boyce of Richard Montgomery High School stated, “Term limits can help prevent one group from taking over for a long time and helps induce change.” On the other hand, he acknowledged, “Someone being elected many times is in fact more an endorsement of how good they are more than a reason why they shouldn’t run for office.”
Ultimately, the term limits initiative will have a significant impact on Montgomery County elections for years to come.
Article by MoCo Student Staff Writer Emily Tian of Richard Montgomery High School