Monday, August 27, 2012

Term limit issue returns with new twists for November ballot

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 5:39 PM

El Paso County election
  • Clark: Perpetual terms, if she had her way?

Here we go with more term limit shenanigans.

After concerns bubbled up from voters some weeks ago about how the term limits ballot issue was worded, it was changed. We explained the problem in this story, which essentially stemmed from wording that called for an action to take place from a "no" vote. State law prevents a "no" vote from having any impact whatsoever.

Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams urged commissioners to do the right thing and change the language. Apparently they have and here's the proposed measure that's due for referral to the ballot this Thursday buy commissioners, two of whom (Sallie Clark and Dennis Hisey) are hoping to capture a third term in the same election:


SHALL THE VOTERS OF EL PASO COUNTY PROHIBIT ANY PERSON
ELECTED TO THE OFFICES OF COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDER,
COUNTY SURVEYOR, COUNTY ASSESSOR, COUNTY TREASURER,
COUNTY COMMISSIONER, IN ANY ELECTION HELD AFTER THE
NOVEMBER 6, 2012 GENERAL ELECTION, FROM RUNNING FOR AND IF
ELECTED SERVING A MAXIMUM OF THREE CONSECUTIVE FOURYEAR
TERMS, THEREBY DENYING THE CITIZENS OF EL PASO
COUNTY THE OPPORTUNITY TO RETAIN THE HOLDERS OF THESE
OFFICES FOR 12 YEARS IF THE VOTERS SO DESIRE
, WITH THE
UNDERSTANDING THAT A VOTE OF “YES” WILL REDUCE THE
EXISTING THREE-TERM LIMIT TO TWO CONSECUTIVE FOUR-YEAR
TERMS AND A VOTE OF “NO” WILL PRESERVE THE CURRENT VOTER APPROVED
LIMIT OF THREE CONSECUTIVE FOUR-YEAR TERMS?

We couldn't help but boldface that one phrase to underscore that these commissioners seem to be completely self-involved to write such a thing. "Boo hoo," the voters wail, according to them. "We won't get to have Dennis Hisey anymore. Woe is us. No more Sallie Clark. Goodness me, what will ever become of us without them leading the way?"

This whole deal started in 2010 when county commissioners Clark, Hisey, Amy Lathen and Wayne Williams voted to submit a question to voters entitling them to run for a third term. Commissioner Jim Bensberg opposed the measure.

Problem is, the measure, and two others for other county elected officials, asked if their terms should be restricted to three, four-year terms, instead of extended.

Get it? Use tricky language to get what you want. It worked. Voters fell for it, but later many complained they felt manipulated. (Then County Attorney Bill Louis acknowledged the language was intentionally deceptive to elicit a "yes" vote; now he's gone, having resigned to go into private practice.)

Glenn: Still opposed to extended terms.
  • Glenn: Still opposed to extended terms.

Anyway, Commissioner Darryl Glenn is still not happy. He says he'll make a last stand to impose a requirement that no currently serving official can serve three consecutive terms, but he predicts it will be a 3-2 vote, with Commissioner Peggy Littleton siding with him.

"In no way would the community expect a couple of people would be exempt" from the limit of two, four-year terms, he says. Notice the ballot language has been manipulated to allow Clark and Hisey a third term.

"We're going to go 3-2 on this one, but I'm going to make the argument," Glenn says.

He also notes the new ballot measure lumps all elected officials in together, unlike the vote in 2010 that started the whole fiasco when voters could extend the limit by one term for the commissioners in one measure while voting separately on the term limit matter for the treasurer, clerk and recorder and assessor. The district attorney was yet another separate vote. That position isn't included in the new measure, because the DA is elected by voters in El Paso and Teller counties, and Teller County commissioners refused to put it on that ballot.

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