Term Limit Loophole Ended with this Charter Change Proposal

Term Limit writing committee

In 1973, voters limited terms of Tacoma elected officials to 10-consecutive years in office – the very first city in the nation to implement term limits. For 46 years, term limits worked until now, when a politician discovered a loophole.

Elected officials can resign from their seat before it ends to avoid the 10-consecutive years in office law, and run for a city council position without taking a real break in service, as the law intended.

Last December, a Tacoma City Council Member resigned from office and announced their candidacy for mayor the same day.

People make a career out of politics all the time, but it should not be in one position.

Tacoma has a City Manager Form of Government, therefore a council member and the mayor have essentially the same power, one vote of nine.

The Tacoma City Council is a part-time body of nine elected officials. Five of these electeds come from five council districts, three positions are at-large (city-wide) and the mayor, who is also elected city-wide. The mayor position was always part-time until back in the 90’s when Mayor Ebersole convinced the council members for a huge pay raise for full time work, even though there was and still is a full-time city manager with a huge staff.

After the announcement last December by the Loophole Candidate, a group of concerned citizens began meeting and wrote changes to the charter to end the term limit loophole. After a great deal of discussion and rewrites, the group agreed on the language and filed the term limit amendment on the Ides of March (March 15), 2017.

The current term limit language, in the Tacoma City Charter, fails to include a break in service period prior to running again for the city council – which this proposed charter amendment cures. Language is required that defines a break in service as the current law has a loophole which is now being exploited.

Term limits essentially are now gone, as any elected official can resign from their seat and wait just one month, one week or even just one hour before filing day for their seat again on the council to avoid term limits.

The community has been quietly grumbling and fuming about this end-run on term limits for four months now. There is concern about this Loophole Candidate who is refusing to represent the community. This candidate is on record supporting the now abandoned methanol refinery and currently supports the dangerous LNG storage tank planned for the tide flats, courtesy of Puget Sound Energy. Not to mention, this same candidate was part of the city council that sued their own citizens for collecting signatures on a water protection petition and then withheld and over-redacted public records that got the city into yet another Public Records violation lawsuit. Just a few weeks ago a judge fined the city $50,000 for over redacting public records.

Woodards supports LNG

The proposed Tacoma Charter Change Amendment on term limits is modeled after the Pierce County Charter term limit language. This proposed term limit amendment defines the sitting out period of two 4-year terms. Additionally, defining the term limit language using the word term instead of year updates the language, making it consistent with the term limit language in the Pierce County Charter as well as around the nation.

Here is the proposed charter amendment term limit language (the text in bold is the new language):

Tacoma City Charter Section 2.35 – No person shall be allowed to serve on the Council for more than ten (10) consecutive years, either as a Council Member, Mayor, or combination thereof. No person shall be allowed to serve in City elective office for more than two consecutive 4-year terms, complete or partial as a Council member and/or Mayor but shall be allowed to serve again after an 8-year break in service. Establishment of residency in an alternate district will not circumvent this two-term restriction.

12,794 valid signatures from Tacoma registered voters are needed by July 7, 2017.

17,000 signatures need to be collected to be sure there is enough of a cushion to make it to the November 7, 2017 ballot.

Signature collection should begin 10 days after filing, as the law provides. Once the city attorney approves the petition form, sheets will be printed and ready for people to sign. The hope is to have petitions ready at the Save Tacoma Water meeting on Monday, March 27, Tully’s downtown at 6:30 PM.