Term lengths, limits up to voters

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE – City officials would be subjected to fewer elections for local offices, the terms of which would be limited, if voters approve a proposed revision to the city charter.

Along with county and state primary contests, Southgate voters will be asked on Aug. 2 to approve a city amendment establishing four-year terms for the offices of mayor, clerk, treasurer and city council, currently elected to two-year terms of office.

The amendment also prohibits re-election for those who have served three consecutive terms. Elected officials are currently limited to four consecutive, two-year terms.

Language for the amendment was approved in February by a 5-2 council vote, with Bill Colovos and Karen George dissenting.

Arguments in favor of the amendment include saving election costs for the city, which Mayor Joseph Kuspa said is among the few in southeast Michigan with two-year terms of elected office. Local elections have often been the lone items on primary or general election ballots, at a cost of about $37,000 to the city.

Opponents have said that, while four-year terms might offer savings, the end result allows more continuous time in office, with a cap of 12 rather than eight years.

Efforts to expand or revise the terms of office have materialized often on council, including last year’s motions from City Clerk Janice Ferencz, which failed to gain support among a panel that felt the changes hadn’t been properly reviewed for 2015 ballot placement. Instead, council considered the matter in February to secure presidential-year ballot placement that would result in a higher turnout of voters.

The 2015 city ballot offered – for the third consecutive time – uncontested races for mayor, clerk treasurer and council seats.

(James Mitchell can be reached at james.a.mitchell37@gmail.com.)

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