Term limit for commissioners should remain at two

Filed under: Opinion | Tags:,

The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners wants voters to extend commissioners’ term limits to allow incumbents to run for a third term.

We’re not in favor of this for two primary reasons.

First, there is little evidence that the limit of two, four-year terms, which was approved by voters statewide in 1994, has created a problem.

Better yet, term limits are working just fine. They’re doing exactly what they were intended to do: keeping the idea of representative government alive and well.

The commissioners earlier this month placed three separate questions on the November ballot that would extend service to three terms for themselves, the district attorney, the assessor, the clerk and recorder, the treasurer and the surveyor.

The biggest argument for extending term limits — and it’s not a new one — is that experience is what gives an elected official strength and that such experience should not be lost to a limiting mandate.

It’s true that 56 of Colorado’s 64 counties have either extended or eliminated term limits. But many of these counties are a fraction of the size of ours. They are places where there is likely a dearth of qualified or willing leaders.

This is not the case in El Paso County, the largest county in the state.

Advocates of a third term say experienced politicians are key to securing state and federal funding for county projects. There may be some validity to that. But are term limits really to blame for a majority of the county’s shortcomings and lost opportunities?

We can’t overlook the fact, either, that the very commissioners who placed the questions on the ballot have quite a bit of personal interest at stake in the matter.

The job pays well, commissioners take home about $91,000 a year — roughly 48 percent more than the county’s median household income $46,800.

It’s hard, really, to blame anyone for trying to do everything they can to hold on to their job.

Many of our commissioners have worked hard and deserve our thanks.

But new faces bring new ideas and keep government on its feet. Term limits are a good antidote to the political paralysis so often seen when politicians are too comfortable in their jobs.