Letter: Aspen needs to refine term limits
The article “Basalt could ask voters to clarify about term limits” (Feb. 19, The Aspen Times) brings to the fore a parallel problem facing Aspen. Should there be a limit on years of consecutive service as mayor and members of the City Council?
Aspen’s city charter does not contain term limits: We rely on the state constitution (Article XVIII, Section 11) for individual term limits, two consecutive four-year terms for members of council and three consecutive two-year terms for mayor. The state constitution places no cumulative limits between two positions in the same jurisdiction, but Aspen has the power to enact such under par. Using that same authority, Pitkin County commissioners have their own charter mandated limits of three consecutive four-year terms.
The charter defines the office of mayor and the office of a council member to be different but then goes on to state, with respect to the mayor, “ He or she shall have all of the powers, rights, privileges and obligations of a member of Council” (Section 3.3). Thus, there is an asymmetrical relationship where no member of council functions in the capacity of mayor, but the mayor acts as a full member of council. The overlap is plainly substantial, and the positions are not entirely separate and distinct.
Given the lack of cumulative term limits, a term-limited mayor could run and serve two terms as a member of the council and then repeat the process over and over. Likewise, a term-limited member of the council could run and serve three terms as mayor and repeat the process. Is this good governance? I think not.
The council is planning a work session to consider two issues: term limits for members of boards and commissions (a bad idea) and changes to the existing methodology of filling vacancies on the council (a good idea). But to complete the agenda, it should add the question of years of consecutive service on the council and as mayor and should put to the voters the necessary corrective action.
Neil B. Siegel
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