Editorial: Term limits are for good reasons
January 28, 2014
Grand Lake Fire Protection District voters got it right in 2012.
They voted to reject ending board term limits.
The question again is being posed to voters during a special election this Feb. 4, just shy of two years later.
In statements in support of extinguishing term limits released on Jan. 14 from Fire Chief Mike Long and the Grand Lake Fire Protection District board, it says "voters will be able to allow some of the longer serving board members to be able to continue providing experienced insight on policies and budgets." The board also cites difficulty in securing board members "when there are almost 20 other elected boards vying for suitable board members."
If board members are what this district seeks, we question why the district does the bare minimum in notifying the public about openings.
At least one past board member only found out about an opening — not through official district means — but through the grapevine.
And the fire chief himself recruited three out of five existing board members.
If voters are not careful, such a situation can create an environment of cronyism at the top tier of the district.
A board of pals could give the fire chief of 11 years, Mike Long, far too much control.
The district talks of experience and insight as reasons for extending terms, but fresh perspectives that come with change can be positive.
We feel eight years on the job is long enough to do the work board members campaign to do. Beyond that, members run the risk of getting too comfortable with power. Voters have a habit of voting for incumbents without knowing their positions on issues. Term limits would weed out those not best for the district.
An argument for term limits for the U.S. Congress can just as well apply at the local level: Board members will be more responsible toward constituents because they will soon be constituents themselves. They will have to live under the (policies) they have created. (Restartcongress.org)
We find it curious that public notification of this election on the district's website and in the Middle Park Times only took place after the Sky-Hi started inquiring about it on Jan. 6, just one month prior to the election.
We acknowledge the District was within its legal requirements of notification about the special election, which at minimum is a published notice 20 days prior. But was it coincidental the district waited until the cat was out of the bag to start informing the public when they'd known about this election since at least last October?
Public boards are important. They provide the checks and balances needed when public tax money is at stake.
Given the track record of this district in making the public aware of board openings and this upcoming special election, and given the public's apathy in attending fire district board meetings and seeking out public information, having term limits in place is just one layer of protection — for this district or any other.