Term limits are still just a dream in the City of Rockaway Beach.
An initiative petition was 21 valid signatures short, of the necessary 165, to add a ballot measure regarding term limits for elected position to an upcoming election, according to Tillamook County Clerk Tassi O’Neil.
Petitioner Brian Halvorsen has two years to get the 21 remaining valid signatures and if he turns them in before February, the soonest it can appear is for the May election.
By Jordan Wolfe
The petition calls to amend the Rockaway Beach City Charter by limiting an individual’s public service time as mayor, city councilor and/or appointed committee member to eight years in 12-year period and would be applied retroactively. Currently serving individuals would serve out their current terms and would be effective upon passage.
“I think it’s a bad idea for this community,” City Manager Terri Michel said. “Sometimes you’re begging people to run for office.”
In the November election, the positions for mayor and city council position 4 are up for re-election and they are currently running unopposed. With a population of 1,350, she said it is a small pool of interested individuals.
City Councilor Kristine Hayes argues more people would seize the opportunity to serve if terms were finite.
“New people would come forward with experience who have not or do not have the opportunity to get involved,” Hayes said, “More people could get involved and know what is going on. Also, I think there would be more transparency.”
She told Halverson she supports his endeavor.
“I’m not helping because I want to clean house,” she said. “I’m doing it because I think it’s what the people want. I want peoples voices to be heard.”
Ultimately, she said her goal is to help bring in new ideas.
“It feels very stagnant,” she said, “As a city council member, I don’t feel like we’re open to new ideas.”
However, without term limits, Michel said the solution is simply to allow voters to not re-elect ineffective officials. Amending the City Charter with term limits would be unfair to effective leaders, she added.
“After training them on how government works, it seems foolish to boot them out,” she said. “People have lives and if you work and stuff, committing to a certain amount of meetings per month becomes difficult.”
Term limits may be better in larger cities, Michel said, adding no elected official in Rockaway Beach has been serving for an astronomical length of time, saying people serve for a time, leave the position and sometimes return. Preventing service for a particular length of time could create one circumstance Michel said she hopes not to see.
“I started thinking, ‘My goodness, maybe we wouldn’t have a council at all,’” she said, “Wouldn’t that be a scary thought?”