By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Councilmen Dan Gase, Lee Whetham and Patrick Downie and Mayor Dan Di Guilio voted Tuesday to dismiss a proposed ordinance that would have required council members to step down after serving two consecutive four-year terms.
The existing limit is three four-year terms.
Councilwomen Cherie Kidd and Sissi Bruch and Councilman Brad Collins voted against the motion to shelve the idea, with Collins and Bruch saying incumbents have an inherent advantage because of their name recognition.
A shorter term limit “stirs the pot,” Bruch said, and would encourage more young people to file for candidacy.
“After serving eight years, you can always step out for two years and come back for another eight years,” Bruch added.
“I don't think this restricts us in any way.”
The council's current term limit was increased from two terms to three terms in 2000 after another 4-3 vote.
No current council members were on the 2000 panel.
“I just think this is a waste of time,” Whetham said.
“We had three out of four in last year's election run unopposed. I don't think there's a lot of people who are beating down the doors to get in here, or it doesn't seem that way.”
Gase said the citizens of Port Angeles have a history of voting out incumbents.
“If somebody has an interest in running, they have a good chance of beating one of us,” he said.
“We've seen that happen a number of times.”
Only four out of 187 cities statewide have term limits at all, Gase said. Shortening the term limit, he added, would restrict council members from serving on influential state boards.
“I think this is a solution to a problem that really doesn't exist,” Gase said.
“We do have a term limit. Let's not make it more restrictive.”
Downie, the deputy mayor, said people getting to know their elected officials is the core of representative government.
“I have some concern about disconnecting that relationship arbitrarily and saying 'Well, I've known you for eight years and I care a lot about what you're doing,' then 'Adios, amigo,'” Downie said.
Collins cited an unscientific Peninsula Daily News online poll that showed a majority of respondents supported a two-term limit for council members.
“Most of us after two terms feel like it's somebody else's turn,” he said.
“I don't see why we shouldn't be following the will of the people of the city of Port Angeles.”
Kidd noted that 20-somethings have filed to run against incumbents in recent years.
Di Guilio said the range of opinions in Tuesday's meeting showed diversity on the current council.
“This is not a career path for anybody,” he said.
“It's not like a congressional job or something like that. I mean, the small stipend that we get is not something a person can live on,” he added.
Monthly pay is $550 for council members, $650 for the deputy mayor and $600 for the mayor.
“We're here because we want to serve our communities,” Di Guilio said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.