Coonrod Proposes Term Limits For City Council Members; Giving Mayor 4 4-Year Terms, Moving Elections Away From March

  • Tuesday, December 6, 2022

City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod is proposing an ordinance that would - for the first time - establish term limits for City Council members. It would also allow the mayor to serve four four-year terms instead of the current two four-year terms.

The maximum for City Council members would be four four-year terms.

Councilwoman Coonrod is also proposing moving the current stand-alone city elections from March to August to coincide with other elections. She said the March 3, 2021 city election cost the city $224,487 and the April 13, 2021 runoff was $188,741. She said that money could be used for a number of city needs instead.

There still would be runoff elections if no candidate receives 50 percent plus.

Councilwoman Raquetta Dotley said earlier, "I will support policy to add staggered term limits to City Council positions for the purpose of combating the compliance and power pull of career politicians."

"Term limits have long been debated in the political arena. The city of Chattanooga mayor can serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms, however, those same guidelines don’t apply to City Council.

"So why doesn’t the City Council have term limits? Why would someone want to serve on Chattanooga City Council for more than eight years?

"When serving in any public position, it is critical that there are limitations placed on how long a person can be in office. When public officials are in office for too long, stagnation can be mistaken for sustainability and complacency for progress. Being a career politician should not be the goal of a City Council member, but rather reflecting the voices of the community in policy."

Councilwoman Jenny Hill earlier expressed opposition to moving city elections away from the March time period.

She said to fellow council members, "Non-partisan elections and elected bodies like ours are rare and important. While moving city elections to follow county/state cycles would save a small amount of money, I believe our city would lose more than we would gain.

"County, state and national elections are partisan. As such the rhetoric that surrounds those elections is largely party platform based - aimed at moving primary voters (who typically fall on the ideological ends of the spectrum) to the polls.

"You'll notice that these elections struggle to focus on new ideas and solutions, favoring instead partisan lightning rods - most recently, gun violence and indoctrination.

"Our city elections create their own, separate conversation away from the noise of partisan blather. Candidates are motivated to work just as diligently to earn votes- and they have an opportunity to do so based on their ideas, record, relationships and work ethic - rather than a binary r/d proposition.

"Having served in the county system, I can attest to the reality that partisanship has a palpable effect on how work gets done or not done. It's only natural that savvy, dedicated candidates will adapt to whatever system of election is established. By holding our elections separate, we reinforce our non-partisan commitment. If we choose to align with the partisan structure, we can expect results not unlike County Commission - a body that struggles to find consensus on important seemingly non-partisan issues such as wastewater treatment, zoning, facilities, etc."

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