Term limits have long been an article of faith for Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, but when a term-limit measure goes before voters next month, it won’t have the backing of one of the issues most ardent advocates.
Instead, Concerned Citizens is asking its members to register a protest vote by going to the polls but not pulling the lever on the home rule charter amendment.
Rick Franzo, president of the group, said in a news release Tuesday that the Parish Council has structured the proposal to suit the self-interest of its members. The proposed amendment would limit council members to three four-year terms, but the restriction would not go into effect until 2020.
That means a council member serving today “could continue in office until 2032,’’ Franzo exclaimed, in bold print.
“Their scheme is a rouse (sic) or trick to perpetuate their incumbency until at least the year 2032 regardless of the vote,’’ he said, calling it a lose-lose choice for term limit supporters.
While not voting on the item won’t change the outcome, Franzo said the “under vote’’ will be counted, providing a way for people to voice their dissatisfaction with the choices presents and with “the institutional corruption of the home rule charter revision process.’’
Term limits were among the most debated issues before the home rule charter committee last year, But the Parish Council did not include a term limits measure among the nine home rule charter amendments placed on the November ballot.
After mounting public criticism, however, the council reconsidered the matter but too late to get it on the November ballot.
Term limit supporters were unhappy that the clock will start Jan. 1, 2020 should voters approve the measure. Councilman Steve Stefancik said there was no choice in the matter because it’s illegal to reduce the term of office for an elected official and several Parish Council members have already been re-elected by virtue of drawing no opponent in the Oct. 24 primary.
Critics suggested at the time that the council’s change of heart had something to do with the fact that the later election date would mean a delay for the start of term limits.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter at @spagonesadvocat.