Council mulls longer terms of office

SOUTHGATE — It might be an idea whose time has come — or not.


City Council members are revisiting the notion of changing terms of elected office to four years from two, and discussed the issue before their regular meeting Wednesday. Officials have no plans to change the current limit of eight consecutive years in office.


“I don’t see it winning,” Council President John Graziani said of the ballot proposal needed to amend the city charter to lengthen the terms.


Councilwoman Patricia Ganzberger agreed, saying, “When this came up before, it went down like a rock.”


Voters accused some council members of trying to circumvent term limits, she said, because the change would have come at a time that extended their terms.


“Those people came to the council and accused us of everything but baby stealing,” Ganzberger said.


City officials decided to consider the change after a request from resident Ernie Abercrombie, who said Ecorse and Lincoln Park are the only other Downriver communities that have two-year terms. On Wednesday he also suggested staggering the elections so that all seven members of council don’t come up for election at the same time.


City Attorney Edward Zelenak warned that because the proposed term change also would mean a likely amendment to the eight-year overall limit, adding language for staggered terms would cause a ballot proposal to exceed the 100-word restriction required for approval by state officials.


“You’re changing two provisions in conflict with each other,” he said, “so you have to amend that provision also.”


Councilman Phillip Rauch said he was in favor of taking the time to get the language right in order to avoid a repeat of past resident protests.


“We don’t want people to think that we’re extending our terms,” he said.


Referring to the fact that Rauch is one of the council members whose term could be affected by the change, Graziani said jokingly, “That’s exactly what you’re trying to do.”


Members directed Zelenak to draft ballot language for consideration at their next meeting in two weeks.