Should the terms of Warwick-elected officials be limited?
That’s the question Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson would have voters answer this November should her resolution gain favor with her colleagues, the mayor and state representatives.
Vella-Wilkinson would have City Council terms limited to four – a total of eight years of service. From her point of view, the limit should be eight years, whether served sequentially or not.
The councilwoman hasn’t yet cited her preference on term limits for the mayor and members of the School Committee, but she is leaning toward eight to 10 years for the mayor.
Mayor Scott Avedisian hasn’t taken an official position on Vella-Wilkinson’s resolution, and that’s understandable, given that she has not defined exactly what she would like to see. Nonetheless, in an email the mayor said if voters are going to be asked about changes in term limits, which require a change to the City Charter, other issues might be considered. He didn’t specify what those may be, but if the work of past Charter Review Commissions is considered, proposals could range from appointed School Committee members to granting the School Committee the authority to tax.
Vella-Wilkinson said her effort to address term limits stems in large part from her conviction that part-time elected officials should not receive city pensions. The councilwoman made her feelings known soon after election and sought to eliminate council pensions that members became eligible to receive after serving six years. She introduced and was successful in gaining approval of an ordinance that changed the eligibility to 10 years. Should voters approve a four-term limit for council members, the issue of pensions would be moot.
But there’s more to her reasoning than pensions.
Vella-Wilkinson recognizes that incumbency has an influence in elections. She feels reform is needed to level the field and give others with innovative ideas a chance over those whose names keep getting them re-elected.
Vella-Wilkinson’s proposal is still in the formative stage and, as we gather from Mayor Avedisian’s response, there could be other suggested charter changes beyond term limits. We would urge that those ideas be permitted to come to the surface, that they reach the Council floor and that they then gain legislative approval so that they can appear on the ballot. Without that, the reforms will only be proposals and voters will have no say on their merit.