Councilor Yoon's last gasp: Mayoral term limits

Sam Yoon is asking his supporters to barrage city councilors with phone calls to convince them to vote on a measure to limit Boston mayors to two terms in office. The proposal currently sits in Maureen Feeney's committee on government operations - to which a proposal to keep the city-council president from becoming mayor if the sitting mayor resigns has also been consigned.

In a statement, Yoon says:

"This is about good government reform we need in Boston. Frankly, we need campaign finance reform and a full charter review, but term limits is something we can do now.

Yoon made term limits a plank in his mayoral campaign this year. The current city council, on which Yoon sits, expires on Dec. 31. The rules committee holds one last meeting on Dec. 16.

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    Take them State Wide

    There are way too many Mayors for Life in the commonwealth. All are consolidating power and handing out buddy-buddy favors in inappropriate ways.

    They may not be "crooked" in the traditional sense and may be well meaning, but the isolation and resulting patronage farce seems inevitable, as does their removal from democracy, reality, and what constitutes good governance.

    question

    Are term limits the only effective way to counter the power of the incumbent over the challenger? I hate to take choices away from voters, especially more experienced and proven elected leaders.

    Term limits are a must for

    By on

    Term limits are a must for clean government. No matter how honest a politician is, after several years they owe so many favors from brokering deals it becomes impossible to govern in the genuine best interests of constituents. However, given how corrupt this state is, I doubt this will ever pass or if it does, some friendly appointed judge will abolish it when asked.

    Yoon Got Term Limits

    By on

    He ran for a higher office and did not make it. Term limits solved.

    With All Due Respect, Bullshit

    By on

    Term Limits are a lazy electorate's way to solve the problem. We already have what is needed - elections. You vote someone out, they're out. You vote someone else in, they're in. If you can't convince enough people to vote one way or another, you get what you deserve.

    I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool Libertarian, ex-state-chair, who had this argument over and over and over with those in his party who overwhelmingly agreed with the views expressed by Haviland above. They thought the only way we'd ever win elections was if term limits were put in place. I knew that the reason we hardly ever won was because we hadn't done the damn job of actually convincing people we were worth voting for.

    What is actually needed, if anything, is a limit on the incumbent's ability to use his/her incumbency as an aid to re-election. No bogus mailings from his office, on the taxpayer's dime, during the three or four months leading up to any election. Less ability to actually hand out patronage jobs. That sort of thing will truly work to limit a dishonest or otherwise unacceptable incumbent's power. Term limits just
    lops off the good guys along with the bad, indiscriminately. It ASSUMES (and we all know what happens when we do that!) that everyone who wishes to seek re-election is an asshole, which - while fun to say - just isn't true.

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    Nonsense

    By on

    The system is built to protect incumbents. That's why we need Term Limits. If it's good enough for US President, it should be good enough for Boston's mayor. Nine of the 10 biggest cities in the US have Term Limits for Mayor - and for good reason.

    I Say It Isn't Good Enough For The President, Either

    By on

    You seem to assume that everybody thinks term limiting the presidency is a good thing. I'm against term limits in all instances, as are a few other folks, I'm sure.

    And telling us that 9 of the 10 biggest cities have term limits is not a good reason in and of itself. That's like saying that 9 out of 10 smokers smoke more than a pack a day, so it must be a good thing. Please give the actual good reasons. Don't just say there are some.

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    "You seem to assume that

    By on

    "You seem to assume that everybody thinks term limiting the presidency is a good thing."

    IT IS! The whole reason why Washington set the precedent for serving only two terms, prior to the amendment, was to prevent any president from becoming a defacto dictator for life. Gerrymandering and other issues always favor encumbants and that's why term limits are a good idea. Forcing people to pay attention to their politicians by seeing fresh faces every eight years is helluva lot better than the zombie shuffle we have going on now.

    In Boston, term limits are needed

    By on

    Agree with you, suldog, that term limits "lops off the good guys along with the bad, indiscriminately." But I am willing to accept that drawback because I see no likelihood of effective actions to reduce the "incumbent's ability to use his/her incumbency as an aid to re-election." Menino has so rigged the system through patronage, that it has been extremely hard not only to beat him but to get substantial candidates to even run. Flaherty and Yoon deserve credit for waging game campaigns but neither of them are heavy-hitters, like, I dunno, a Ralph Martin or a Paul Grogan or a David D'Allesandro. So many residents owe Menino their jobs via patronage that they wouldn't dare not support him.

    I like your point that term

    I like your point that term limits will lop off both the good guys with the bad, but I have to counter that after a certain number of years, the greater number politicians have overstayed their welcome. Even the best intentioned politician would lose their the zeal of when they first started. Term limits will lop of a few good guys, but the number of those who needs to leave, will outweigh the loss. Is it unfair? Yes, it assumes everyone who seeks re-election is an ass. However, you have to view in terms of the greater good, Boston will be better off with a better stream of new blood, and that's more important than the few good politicians cannot get re-elected.

    The counter proposal of focusing of limiting the advantages of being an incumbent is more ideal, but more rules will also hurt good politicians too and risks loopholes. The easiest way to limited the advantage of incumbents is a clean cut: Term limits.

    Also as ideal of the idea of a motivated electorate to keep our people in authority honest and hard-working, or just skilled, I have to take a Machiavellian view of human nature. It is too idealized, we have an apathetic electorate, they will not be the watchguard, even if they are motivated, there will be times that they won't. Relying on the electorate to vote out or not will lead to getting what we'll deserve, but Boston won't be better of for that. Again, one have to ask, what will do more good for Boston?

    yea but...

    Relying on the electorate to vote out or not will lead to getting what we'll deserve, but Boston won't be better of for that. Again, one have to ask, what will do more good for Boston?

    This is your opinion that Boston won't be better off. If people really thought it was that bad, they would vote him out, or even vote at all.

    Logical Fail

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    Anon & RhoninFire:

    You both seem to think that it is impossible to change the system enough to make a difference. If so, why do you believe that you can change PART of it? And, if you actually CAN change part of it, why do you believe that you can't change MORE of it?

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    Changing some does equal ability to change all

    This is your opinion that Boston won't be better off. If people really thought it was that bad, they would vote him out, or even vote at all.

    People will vote out a politician if things are that bad. However, the flaw is the idea is based on the assumption that people will always make the correct judgment in voting and always have the correct information. There been actions that been unpopular but good. Others are popular but not in the long-term best interest. Many times people will vote on the image rather than seeing through and judge on accomplishments. Therefore, the criteria for election is not always past accomplishments or actions, but how organized the supporting group is and how well he can market a projected image. This also leads that a politician can win elections unless he do so much damage that become it become impossible to not notice as long he can compensate though image, organization, and resources to rally base support.

    You both seem to think that it is impossible to change the system enough to make a difference. If so, why do you believe that you can change PART of it? And, if you actually CAN change part of it, why do you believe that you can't change MORE of it?

    Please expand on the logical failure of my claim, for I don't see that being able to change part means we can change everything. It is not binary option here.

    Putting a term limit put a clear barrier cutting out bad politicians. It is a clear reform, whereas as more complex reforms you are suggesting. I believe that you are suggesting that we should remove the advantages of incumbents as an alternative approach to reform. However, the flaw is it will mean more complex rules which leads to loopholes. More regulations of the advantages also risk hurting the good ones too as it will take always tools he can govern in the time he is allowed to be in power. A greater number of rules trying to limit advantages can easily do more harm compared to a single clear reform. Change can't always do all good and no harm.

    But who's to decide?

    By on

    However, the flaw is the idea is based on the assumption that people will always make the correct judgment in voting and always have the correct information.

    What was it Churchill said about democracy?

    Putting a term limit put a clear barrier cutting out bad politicians.

    Putting a term limit puts a clear barrier cutting out good politicians, too. If I think X is doing a good job, why should I be deprived of my right to vote for him again? Even with all the advantages of incumbency, term limits still smacks of elitism, that the people have to be protected from themselves, because they know not what they do.

    What was it Churchill said

    What was it Churchill said about democracy?

    Did I say that we should change forms of government? Term limits is not switching to a new form of government.

    Putting a term limit puts a clear barrier cutting out good politicians, too. If I think X is doing a good job, why should I be deprived of my right to vote for him again? Even with all the advantages of incumbency, term limits still smacks of elitism, that the people have to be protected from themselves, because they know not what they do.

    I view things by weighing the pros and cons. What I see, the pros are bad politicians are forced out and a constant stream of fresh eyes will come in. The cons are some good ones will also get chopped. If more good than harm (more bad politicians are out than good ones plus new blood) are done by having term limits, then I support term limits. Additionally, limits to incumbent advantages, I currently see will generate less good versus term limits even though one can argue that it is better on fairness for a good politician and voter.

    Explaining The Logic

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    RhoninFire:

    See, here's the thing. If you can change any part of the electoral process, it IS possible to change the whole thing eventually. It's not a matter of binary option. It's just a matter of hard work that not too many people are willing to do. True reform isn't easy, so they try to enact term limits (which, while also true reform, is lazy.)

    But here's where the real failure in logic occurs. If you believe that entrenched politicians will not carry out the will of the people, then why do you believe that getting term limits passed will actually end up being successful? There are more than enough examples of the people's will being thwarted by the legislature even though a majority of the people voted to enact certain things via referendum. Seen that 5% state income tax rate anywhere lately? So, gathering sigs, and voting, while supposedly the citizen's way to combat a recalcitrant legislature, just is not effective if the legislature decides to put it's collective effort toward circumventing the outcome. And, if you vote to put whole scads of them out of office in one fell swoop, rest assured that the odds are it will never happen, at least not in this state.

    So, the only way to get it done is by working, one seat at a time - one office at a time, one man or woman at a time - via the only damn outcome they have yet to circumvent, and which the courts frown mightily upon tampering with: actual election to office.

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    I think you and I have bit

    I think you and I have bit of a difference in seeing how malleable is human nature.


    It's just a matter of hard work that not too many people are willing to do.

    The matter of hard work you ask requires a large group of motivated people pushing for reforms. My understanding of human nature is, people are lazy and people are impatient. You can motivate yourself to do fight, a small group of people is possible too. A large group operate on extremes, motivated enough to sweep out parties with great zeal or fail to reach critical mass which lead to making some noise and fade to acceptance.

    If you believe that entrenched politicians will not carry out the will of the people, then why do you believe that getting term limits passed will actually end up being successful? There are more than enough examples of the people's will being thwarted by the legislature even though a majority of the people voted to enact certain things via referendum.

    Do not forget that part of my reasoning is term limits is more effective than trying to take out incumbent advantages. For addressing your argument, term limits are much more likely to be passed as it have the precedence and clearer cut than complex reforms aim at removing incumbent powers. Many times, removing incumbent powers means removing ability for a good politician to take action too in the time given.

    So, the only way to get it done is by working, one seat at a time - one office at a time, one man or woman at a time - via the only damn outcome they have yet to circumvent, and which the courts frown mightily upon tampering with: actual election to office.

    As I said above, sustained effort of very large groups, I have doubt of ability to keep that effort alive. I see a small group or a single man accumulating such capital as much more likely as they can keep their efforts alive longer.

    Aside, I also note this, in the case of term-limits for mayors, that is much easier to succeed in implementing and much more likely to see its benefits. The other path of replacing one representative at a time slowly means getting them in will takes many many years, such benefits, which I see is less than a clear cut reform will mean it will Boston will benefit much less by the reform and the benefits accumlated over time.

    Fine, no term limits, BUT...

    By on

    And it's a BUT so big, Sir Mix-A-Lot is knocking at my door right now...

    ...BUT...if the incumbent doesn't get 50% of the possible votes, then I say they lose by default and a run-off election determines the next person. A lack of a person's vote should be considered a vote of no confidence. If they get to stay as long as people want to keep them there, then they should have to garner enough votes from the potential voters to convincingly stay elected.

    If you like how things are going, then you'll go vote for that person to stay. If you don't go vote, you're saying by your non-vote that you don't like the current status.

    Otherwise, you have a system where so many people are dismissive of the entire process that a small active group can rule unanimously and create the appearance of greater support than actually exists. Democracy only works with an informed and active electorate, otherwise factions can take over.

    My 3 point plan:
    1) Put the mayoral election on the same ballots as the governor election (and maybe even the Presidential schedule instead).
    2) No term limits...just for you no-term-limiters.
    3) If the current mayor does not receive 50% of all registered voters' votes, then the vote is considered "no confidence" and a run-off with the next 2 strongest candidates will determine the next mayor.

    Another Possibility I Could Live With

    By on

    Always have the option on ballots of "None Of The Above". If NOTA garners the most votes, two options:

    1 - The office remains unfilled.

    This is the more radical, obviously, and unlikely to ever happen. Nor would most people want it to, I suppose!

    2 - The election is re-run after a specified length of time and only those candidates from the original election who garnered a certain percentage of the vote are listed on the next ballot, along with any NEW candidates to the race. In addition, I suppose there could be a proviso that any incumbents must meet a certain level of support to continue being listed.

    This is just off the top of my head (which is pretty barren territory, as anyone who's seen a recent photo can attest, so don't nail me to the wall on any of this.)

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    Limit the person and the

    By on

    Limit the person and the favors will just follow the money machine just like everywhere else. New boss same as the old boss and all that.

    Call Feeney - we deserve a vote

    Why go against the people's vote?

    By on

    People in Boston were just offered a solid alternative to a long-term mayor - but the popular mayor won. Why should that choice be taken away from us?

    ???

    Maybe because he spent more than $3 million to get his message out and that he has a ready-built field organization of 20,000 city employees? That's why it's so hard to beat an incumbent. Term Limits will make government better and allow more people to run for office.

    If 18% is popular, then...

    By on

    Look. He's not the "popular mayor". Only 31% of all voters went to the polls this year and only 57% of those actually voted for him. That's 18% of the city that wanted him to be mayor. That 18% has now decided for us for the next 4 years. Call that a travesty of our electorate all you want, but I don't like living in a place where less than 1 out of every 5 people in the voting public get to decide my government's direction. Theoretically, the sitting Mayor should be removed simply because voter turnout is so low that he obviously hasn't motivated the citizenry to get involved in their government...a basic failure of what it means to have a democratic system on its most fundamental level! If we're going to rely on 1 out of every 5 people to vote, the least we can do is require that they actually make a choice instead of rely on the "default" (which is how incumbency has worked since the beginning of time).

    So, yes, Menino won another term in our current system, but don't call him popular (there are more people who think they've seen a ghost for real before per capita) and 18% shouldn't be allowed to dictate to the rest of us just because they were more motivated to go vote (job preservation, neighborhood "bosses", uninformed voters...).

    Sorry

    By on

    The people who show up to vote get to decide. That's kind of the point of voting.

    Not really

    By on

    The point of voting is to tell someone what *you* want to happen.

    The point of elections is to find out from *everyone* what should happen for *everyone*.

    Whole towns used to have to come together on a single date and time in order to quorum and accomplish anything. Some still do! We've allowed our "elections" to become opt-in instead of mandatory. (a change in method that benefits the incumbents who initially allowed this to happen...hmmm, imagine that!) Sheer laziness and a false belief in having no effect on "the system" have gotten us to polling numbers so low that it takes next to nothing to "get to decide" for a much larger body (non)politic. The only appropriate potential measures to restore validity to the polling is to either institute mandatory voting requirements or institute a requirement of quorum for having the results of the election be binding.

    It's simply not a democracy if an active 18-30% are deciding for the rest...and it's even worse than the problems we have as a representative republic (where a small percentage of the electorate handle the decision-making for those they represent) because the active 18-30% are acting ONLY in self-interest in the case of democracy and not in an attempt to represent the remaining 70-82% of the people.

    I can't completely agree with that

    By on

    If 70-82% of the people don't care, or don't bother to find out when/how/where to vote, or don't bother to vote, then why should I care what they think? It's not a chore, it's not hard...if they don't care enough to schlep down to the polling place to make their opinions heard, then their opinions aren't worth very much.

    And I say this as someone who's almost always anti-incumbent.

    Seems pretty obvious

    By on

    If the overwhelming majority don't care or don't bother to vote, then why would you care what the other 18% have to say and shouldn't you be more worried about what's wrong with the 70% that they act this way first?

    It would seem that their opinion is that the candidates and/or the election aren't worth very much. A democracy of only the interested is no democracy...it flies in the very face of the definition of the word. Do you dare call our system democratic and thus deny that the majority's will is not to actually place Menino in charge again indirectly through their own inaction? It's a tad hypocritical of us to demand that Iraqis go to the polls to get a "legitimate" government...while we allow a self-selecting few to determine our own outcomes all the while ignoring the silent majority allowing this to happen.

    Our system is broken on many levels, of which this is only one...but an important one. Would Menino have stood up to the scrutiny of the entire electorate had it been a mandatory vote? Would news coverage been more than cursory if the news organizations knew that they were bringing all of us their insights...rather than a self-select 30%? Would the candidates have been forced to better demonstrate their qualities if they had to appeal to the broadest segments of our city as it is now and not solely the middling 16,000 voters that ended up meaning the difference between Menino and Flaherty?

    Just dismissing the fact that these people don't care, and taking it for what we got, dismisses the very foundation of what makes our system functionally just.

    I'm still not sold

    By on

    You say "A democracy of only the interested is no democracy". Considering for most of our country's history, there were people who WERE interested, but because of sex or race or whatever, they had no say. That's not democracy. People who have the right, and choose not to - that's a different story.

    Now they may not be voting for whatever reason - a protest against the losers on the ballot, because American Idol was on, because they never found out where their polling place was - but that doesn't mean they're not represented. They have the option and don't use it. IMHO, that means I don't have to care what they think.

    I saw David Plouffe's book event in Harvard Square last night. He said that managing the Obama campaign, against Hillary Clinton, he knew they could only win if they gave a large number of those people a reason to get off their couches and go vote. You saw what happened there. The fact that an energizing, motivating campaign is a glaring exception rather than a common occurence sucks, but I don't think the answer is dragging everyone to vote. I frankly don't know what is.

    Third option is the only one left

    By on

    Basically, if you don't want to make people vote and you don't like that they don't vote if you don't make them, then the only options left are to take whatever you can get...or invalidate the whole thing and try again while the entire governmental system comes to a complete stop waiting for the electorate to motivate to vote.

    If people couldn't take it for granted that their lack of interest in an election would still result in a fully functional government (based on the whims of >51% of the other 30%), they'd be more invested to go vote in order to maintain a functional government.