Baltimore voters will not have the option to create term limits for elected officials this November after a City Council bill failed Monday evening.
The charter amendment bill, sponsored by Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, would have limited Council members, the mayor and the comptroller to three consecutive four-year terms in the same office, but would not have stopped them from running again later.
The bill failed to pass its second reading with a tie vote: seven-to-seven, with Councilman John Bullock abstaining.
Schleifer called it a good government bill, saying it would weaken the power of incumbents, allowing for more turnover.
Council President Brandon Scott granted Councilman Ryan Dorsey permission to offer his thoughts on the bill before the roll call vote, during which almost every member ended up voicing their opinion.
The bill failed to pass with a tie vote: seven-to-seven, with Councilman John Bullock abstaining.
Dorsey, who won the 3rd District’s Democratic Party primary vote for a second term last month, questioned how term limits would decrease corruption. In fact, term-limited politicians, who don’t have to face voters, may be more susceptible to corrupting influences.
“I don’t really know the problem this bill is seeking to fix,” Dorsey stated. “I wouldn’t want to do anything to take that power from those voters. . . I hope that if I’m not doing a good job, that people will rise up.”
Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, who is seeking her fourth term as 6th District councilwoman in November, described term limits as a “barrier” and “a form of oppression.”
In defense of the bill, Councilman Bill Henry, who chairs the committee that passed it, said term limits help make sure the Council is not “out of step with the people.”
“The whole point of term limits,” he said, “is that by the time it’s really obvious that you need them, it’s going to be really hard to do them.”
The Council also advanced a charter amendment bill to create a chief administrative officer who would serve alongside the mayor.
The bill grants the proposed officer the power to “administer the day-to-day operations of the city” and “oversee the delivery of municipal services.”
Scott, the Democratic mayoral nominee, sponsored the bill, noting that Philadelphia and Washington have city administrators, as do Baltimore County and Montgomery County.
Earlier in the day, Scott raised eyebrows by postponing a vote on another charter change he had previously supported – a bill that would reduce the Board of Estimates from five members to three.
By eliminating the panel’s two mayoral designees, the bill would reduce the mayor’s control over the powerful spending board. Citing potential complications that he said needed to be considered, Scott said the proposal needed more work.
To meet the deadline to get on the November ballot, proposed charter amendments must be approved by the Council within the next month.
Water Bill Deadline
Advocates held a press conference yesterday to mark the deadline to implement the Water Accountability and Equity Act, which would have made water more affordable for poor residents and created greater protections for renters.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young wants to grant the Department of Public Works a 12-month extension, but that bill has not been passed out of committee.
Coalition members said much of the bill can be rolled out without delay.
“As of today, the denial of renters’ requests to discounts, repayment agreements, and billing dispute resolution is unambiguously illegal,” said Zafar Shah of the Public Justice Center.
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