Looking for public input on possible initiative
In an effort to give more experienced members an extended turn at the helm, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council is considering changing term limits for council members. Council support is split over the issue, but it is agreed across the board that it will take a large amount of public outreach to be successful.
Currently, Mt. Crested Butte Town Council members can serve only two consecutive four-year terms. Council members are allowed to serve on the board again after waiting for two years between elections.
According to Mt. Crested Butte mayor Chris Morgan, if voters pass a ballot question changing term limits, the decision would not affect current council members.
During a regular Town Council meeting on November 6, council member Danny D’Aquila said he was interested in extending term limits, observing that it takes several years for a council member to become proficient in local issues.
D’Aquila, who will be term-limited off the Town Council at the end of 2008, said some issues on the Town Council’s agenda such as the final extension of the recreation path seemed to be halfway there, and it would be nice to see them to completion.
"It takes a long time to get to this level," D’Aquila said. He said it’s ultimately up to the people to decide who serves on the council, and if the public is not in favor of a certain member running for a third term, they will vote accordingly.
In order to get an issue on the next ballot, a citizens’ committee would have to be formed. That citizens’ committee would in turn be responsible for educating the public about why term limits should be extended, a process that Morgan says would be difficult, but could be successful.
Before the meeting, Morgan researched the success rate and effect of term limit changes in other mountain towns by consulting a report conducted by the Colorado Municipal League in the mid-1990s.
"The general consensus from CML was that if the council wanted to change term limits it would have to take it very seriously," Morgan said, citing a poor success rate from other towns that wanted to change term limits.
A similar ballot question asking voters to extend term limits in Mt. Crested Butte was defeated in 2000.
Term limits were instated in Mt. Crested Butte in 1986, according to the town’s attorney Rod Landwher. "I don’t know what the (political) climate was. There may have been a feeling that there was a ‘clique’ group of council members," Landwher recalled.
Council member William Buck said he was in support of changing term limits.
Council member Mike Kube went both ways on the issue. Kube said he agreed with D’Aquila that it takes time to become proficient at local issues, but said not all council members will want to run for a third term. "I don’t see any harm putting it on the ballot, but I don’t think it’s going to pass," Kube said, adding that there are other issues the council could be spending its time on.
Council member Bill Babbitt said he was not in favor of getting an issue together for the 2008 ballot. "I think it will fail. There’s a reason people vote against it," Babbitt said.
"There’s no point putting it out there to let it fail," Morgan said. "People will have to spend hours and hours to make it happen," he said. But Morgan said he was optimistic that a good citizens’ committee and strong campaign could be successful.
Kube said the best course of action for council members interested in extending term limits would be to speak with their constituents. If there is enough support then they should encourage citizens to get a committee together to form a ballot issue.
The deadline for getting a ballot issue in the next election is April 2008.