CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – An opinion piece written by a former Charlotte City Council member about term lengths is sparking some discussion from past and present city leaders on social media.
Recently, the city council's budget committee talked about increasing terms from two to four years. Council could make this change its own without approval from the general assembly and possibly without voters weighting in.
In a Charlotte Observer op-ed called "Charlotte city council members want to serve ... themselves", former councilman Kenny Smith shared this thoughts on the issues.
“I don’t think a body should tell the voters, we think we're doing a good enough job, we're going to insulate ourselves from your accountability and create four year terms,” said Smith.
City Attorney Bob Hagemann said council members could put this change directly on the ballot for a citywide vote or they could move forward with the term increase with a council vote. Voters would then have 30 days to challenge it with a petition of 5,000 which would put it on the ballot.
“If you're going to do this, let the voters decide but you can’t bypass the folks that you represent to lengthen your term,” said Smith.
Right now, five city council members, all of them Democrats, support increasing terms.
At-large member James Mitchell said he agrees this issue should go to the community for a vote. Additionally, he said longer terms would give council more time to get things done.
“Big complex issues need more than 18 months and currently now in our two-year system, we only give you 18 months of public service,” he said.
On the other end of the aisle, Republican Tariq Bokhari doesn't support four year terms but he says he would be open to a compromise.
“Maybe reduce the number of at-large seats to better represent the demographics of Charlotte as it relates to Republicans and Democrats and the number of people we have serving from those on council, I’ d be willing to consider that,” said Bokhari.
The op-ed also sparked responses from other current council members and even former Mayor Jennifer Roberts who agrees with Smith in keeping council terms at two years.
The budget committee will continue this discussion on term changes on October 30.