Sunday, July 02, 2000

Booth pushes for 4-year terms

Idea is to cut down members' 'perpetual campaign'

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The day Cincinnati City Council members are sworn into office is the day they start campaigning for the next election.

Paul Booth
        That's how Councilman Paul Booth sees it. And less than a year after winning his first council election, he is looking to extend terms from two to four years.

        “It will result in a more effective and cohesive council,” he said. “It's almost as if we're in a perpetual campaign.”

        He said it's a problem that only distance between council elections can solve.

Mayoral precedent
        With the new “strong mayor” Cincinnati will elect to a four-year term in 2001, Mr. Booth said a precedent has already been set.

        “This would make the council's terms compatible with the mayor,” he said, adding that it only makes sense to have council members serve concurrent with the mayor.

        Under Mr. Booth's plan, council members would finish out their two-year terms and run for four-year terms in November 2001. Term limits would still apply, meaning any council member who has served eight years would be ineligible to run for re-election.

Charter involved
        To make this happen, six council members have to agree to put it on the ballot, and a majority of voters would have to approve a change to the city's charter.

        Last year, voters approved a charter change that sets up a direct election of the mayor for the first time in more than 70 years.

        The amendment also expanded the mayor's power to initiate hiring and firing the city manager; veto legislation, subject to override by six council members; and appoint council committee chairs. The measure reverses a 1987 referendum to make the top vote-getter in the council elections the mayor.

        Mayor Charlie Luken said he is not opposed to Mr. Booth's plan as long as it is narrowly defined.

        “It's got to be,” he said. “I'm not sure if this proposal is, but I will give it every consideration.”

        Councilman Phil Heimlich, whose term expires next year, said he is also in favor of four-year terms.

        “I think the council will do more governing and less campaigning,” he said.


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