By Paul Gorski
Term limits – capping how many years an elected official may hold a particular office – seems to be a very popular idea in Winnebago County.
Over the past couple of months, I have spoken with dozens of residents who are in favor of limiting how long our elected officials may stay in office in an effort to break up the power and influence certain politicians have. Even John Nelson, local candidate for County Board Chairman, supports term limits for the chairman’s office.
But I am not so sure term limits are the answer. My problem with term limits is that, while the official holding the office will leave, the money backing the candidate will still be around. The contributors behind the scenes will simply find another person to fund – and possibly control – through campaign contributions.
I do not mean to offend those people and contributors who simply want to support good candidates, but one element of term limits is to stop the stockpiling of contributions. Money is a big part of political campaigns, and term limits only deal with the money in a small way.
That said, term limits is a popular subject with voters, but not so popular with some politicians. I decided to survey local residents, via a new website countytermlimits.com, to find out how popular term limits are with voters. Do you support term limits? If you support term limits, do you support eight- or 12-year limits? Take the survey and let me know.
Once I collect the data over the next months, I will release the results. If the topic is that popular, I suggest the following: create legislation that would allow individual units of government in Illinois to determine, by voter ballot measures for each government, whether or not to apply term limits to that unit of government. Unfortunately, this might also mean updating the state constitution, but we can work on that from right here in Winnebago County too.
My thinking here is that universally applied term limits legislation will likely fail, even a statewide referendum may fail, so tweak the legislation to make it easier for state politicians to support it. Let the voters in each unit of local government decide whether or not to apply term limits to their politicians. Of course, you always have the option of simply voting them out office.
The website countytermlimits.com is not only a survey; I hope to expand it to become a forum for discussing and furthering the topic of locally applied term limits through your comments, suggestions and social media outlets. Your ideas for term limits and how to improve the website are appreciated.
This survey started with your ideas, so keep them coming. Visit countytermlimits.com and let’s start the local term limits discussion today.
Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township Trustee and local advocate for open, transparent government. Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.