Saturday, May 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Forget term limits, focus campaign on vital issues

Former state legislator Ken Littlefield tossed his hat into the ring for a County Commission seat and immediately tossed out an odd idea as the first plank of his platform: Term limits for commissioners.

Littlefield, who spent seven years in Tallahassee as a legislator and four more as head of the Statewide Advocacy Council for Florida's health and social service clients, suggested that Pasco's commissioners overstay their welcome. "Seemingly, once they get in there, they stay there," he told Times staff writer Rich Shopes.

Currently, Henry Wilson and Kathryn Starkey are first-term commissioners. Commissioner Ted Schrader is serving his fourth four-year term and Commissioner Jack Mariano, his third, but both survived bruising electoral challenges from fellow Republicans in 2012. Littlefield is seeking the seat of Commissioner Pat Mulieri who is not seeking re-election after 20 years on the board. She won her final term, incidentally, by defeating Littlefield in the 2010 Republican primary.

This is not a new suggestion. One of Littlefield's former electoral opponents, Pat Burke, raised the same issue in the late 1990s through a citizens group called Publicats, but there was little public support then. Statewide, voters approved term limits for the Legislature two decades ago.

The sentiment was understandable. Voters, fed up with career legislators who'd grown too chummy with special interests, wanted to churn office-holders, believing fresh blood would be beneficial. Unfortunately, the detrimental results increased the power of unelected lobbyists and fostered a perverted legislative process in which freshman legislators try to round up chits for leadership roles six years away before even filing their first bills.

Littlefield promised his policy plans would be forthcoming as the campaign advances. He has a lot from which to choose. Commissioners are confronting near- and long-term responses to the pending Urban Land Institute report; redeveloping the U.S. 19 corridor; code enforcement; jail crowding; long-range transportation; economic development, tourism promotion, homelessness, and never-ending land-use decisions. Littlefield would do well to focus on more substantive issues rather than trying to sweep effective commissioners out of office through an artificial deadline. That authority correctly rests with voters each Election Day.

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