THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Toronto Star - Oct. 6, 2009 - By Royson James usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two terms the real limit for mayors
Mel Lastman lasted two terms as megacity mayor. The second term was a disaster. It's fair to say the people had had enough long before he left.
David Miller says he has given so much during two terms as mayor that he has nothing left to give, without leaving his kids bereft of a father. It's fair to say the people have had enough of him, even before he decided to leave.
Maybe two terms is about the limit for a mayor of modern Toronto.
Actually, two terms has been the norm for a lot longer than you might imagine. Delving back into Toronto's civic history, it's hard to find a mayor serving more than two terms – even when the terms lasted one year, until 1956, or two years, until 1982.
David Crombie, Toronto's most celebrated mayor, was an exception. He won a third term in late 1977, but resigned before finishing the term.
It wasn't until Art Eggleton, 1980 to 1991, that Toronto experienced a dynastic mayor. Eggleton had the secret to longevity – he numbed the electorate with his blandness – and was elected four times. After the first two years, Queen's Park changed the rules to allow municipal politicians to sit for three-year terms. Eggleton parlayed that into three more terms before quitting.
Now that the terms are four years long – a grave error imposed by the Dalton McGuinty Liberals – there is the risk of another dynasty.
Why is it a risk, not an opportunity?
Because four-year terms and lifelong residency at City Hall are more likely to create complacency and rot where the city needs innovation and reform. For a local exhibit, visit your own municipal offices.
A purge is often good. Too often, the purge has to be initiated from the outside. That's because those most in need of a cleansing are the last ones to recognize the need for reform. Very few incumbents see a need for new blood at City Hall. More than half of those sitting on Nathan Phillips Square have been in office about 15 years, some pushing 30 years.
The job of councillor is the closest we will get to jobs for life for a politician. At Queen's Park or in Ottawa we can get mad, toss the existing government, and effect a huge turnover of candidates and install fresh blood. Wholesale changes come with new governments and a different party. City Hall? It's easier getting rid of bedbugs than a city councillor.
They have insulated themselves with privileges a challenger can't approximate. Imagine, for the entire election period next year, your city councillor will be paid by you.
If you want to take off work to mount a credible campaign against the incumbent, nobody is paying you.
Up to September of an election year, councillors can send out newsletters to constituents. These circulars are re-election pamphlets, pumped full of self-congratulatory prose and pictures.
The councillor has access to a mailing list of constituents. They can send out fridge magnets and mugs bearing their names.
And they can give money to the local softball team and have the team wear the councillor's name on the jersey – all paid for by the taxpayer.
But that was not enough of an advantage.
The province further tilted the balance by increasing the term of office to four years from three. Newcomers need not apply.
But wait. The big-city demands of the mayor's office are proving so onerous that eight years – two terms – may just be the limit of one's endurance.
Comments by others, 7, to this web-page;
William Young Oct 6, 2009 4:35 PM
Only allow councilors or a mayor two serve two consecutive terms at a position. After two terms a councilor can run for mayor and stay for another two terms. Otherwise make them sit out a term before they can run again. This brings in new blood and new ideas and if someone is truly good at their job they can come back again. Even a good councilor or mayor would benefit every now and then from a change of scenery and come back with new ideas and a new perspective. Everyone wins. These positions shouldn't be careers. And if you think it is bad in the city, try looking at the small towns outside of the GTA to see where incumbency has led to problems.
Therese Oct 6, 2009 10:45 AM
Two or three terms should be max for councillors, mayors, MPs MPPs and PMs. The longer they stay in office, the more opportunity and power they have to get re-elected. Mississauga has been missing out on democracy for more than a quarter century. A fixed number of terms means fresh ideas and a fresh vision. In Misissauga we have a legacy of same old same old. It's a dynasty, not just for the mayor, but her councillors too.Shameful! Have they no conscience? Obviously not!
* Agree 4 - Disagree 1
DMcD Oct 6, 2009 9:45 AM
Put Moscoe on the top of the old hack that has to go list.
* Agree 4
superpeach Oct 6, 2009 9:36 AM
We already enjoy term rights. It's called getting out and voting. We do have a few gems on council that deserve reelection. I vote no to term limits.
* Agree 2 Disagree 2
CanadianBiker Oct 6, 2009 9:10 AM
Limiting the Mayor's number of terms is meaningless without doing the same with the councillors. And not all Mayors are created equal. Some, like Miller, should be turfed after the first week and some, like Hazel McCallion (despite Hume's venomous hissy fits) should be allowed to run for as long as they - and the voters - want.
* Agree 1 - Disagree 6
blackmirth Oct 6, 2009 9:08 AM
whether the term is 1, 3 or 4 years there seems to be an evident arc to the narrative of Mayor; one that begins with hyperbole; meanders through the mundane before bogging down in the swamp of corruption. Maybe the mayor shouldn't be told how long his term is going to be so he can't start greasing his exit.
* Agree 3 - Disagree 1
Lela Oct 6, 2009 8:09 AM
And why not extend the same policy for Councillors? If citizens are eager to serve their city, and not consider this job a cushy plum for life, then they will be creative and resourful. Otherwise, we will always have old stereotyped buraucrats hiding under their paperwork and going nowhere.
* Agree 6 - Disagree 1 - Alert a Moderator 1
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