10.30.16 Keith Berner’s Biennial Voters Guide (oppose term limits!)
I do not have an original fall edition for 2016, because the top-of-the-ticket races are too obvious to require my analysis and I lack the expertise to analyze most of the down-ticket races. Therefore, I refer my readers to Progressive Neighbors* — my favorite local political organization — for advice on school board, judges and ballot questions. (Since PN hasn’t posted their endorsements to their website yet, I’ll paste an image of them below.)
I do want to comment, though, on Robin Ficker’s ballot initiative to inflict term limits on Montgomery County and urge you to Vote “no” on Question B. Why oppose term limits?
- Term limits are inherently anti-democratic: they take away from the voter the opportunity to select whichever candidates they want for public office.
- While there is understandable sentiment to “throw the bums out,” there is already a democratic means to do so: elections. In the absence of campaign-finance reform, built-in incumbent advantages make make term limits appear attractive. Even so, Montgomery County has implemented campaign finance reform, rendering this argument moot this year in this place.
- Governing is difficult. To be an effective legislator or executive requires arcane knowledge and on-the-job experience. Forcing amateurs to replace professionals on a regular basis undermines government effectiveness. This is a selling point for anti-government fanatics like Ficker, but no moderate or progressive should fall for it.
- Term limits actually increase the influence of special interests. Neophyte legislators are more easily manipulated by big-money interests than those who have learned how to reject empty marketing that is not in the public interest. Also, these neophytes are significantly more likely to hire as aides lobbyists in sheep’s clothing. A revolving door between industry and government relies on gullible legislators.
- If Robin Ficker is for it, that’s reason enough to oppose it. Ficker has been trying to undermine good governance in Montgomery County for nearly 20 years. There is no difference between Ficker and the Tea Party. Ficker has tried and failed twice previously to get term limits through. He has put referendum after referendum on the ballot to prevent the country from raising the funds to provide necessary services. Last time he tried this, he succeeded: it now takes a supermajority of 7 (out of 9) votes on the county council to raise taxes.
Unfortunately, there is a very good chance that Ficker’s current stunt will succeed. A recent county tax hike and upcoming raises for councilmembers have put MoCo voters in a sour mood. The current incumbents bear a lot of blame for the sour mood. They have done an abysmal job of proactively communicating with constituents about what they’re up to and why. Progressiveson the council have failed utterly to mobilize constituents against bad policy. Party of me says the incumbents have what’s coming to them. But, we must not forget that this referendum is not about meting out punishment, but rather about preserving democracy and increasing the chance of good public policy in the future. Politics as a fit of pique is what Robin Ficker and Donald Trump both espouse and embody.
*When you visit Progressive Neighbors’ website, please take the time to make a contribution. This grass roots residents’ movement has had a profound impact on local politics since its founding in 2006 and needs your support to keep up their work.
©2016 Keith Berner