Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal (D-At large) sent a strong message Sunday to Robin Ficker, who is leading a campaign for a referendum on term limits for County Council members and County Executive.
“Perennial loser Robin Ficker says ‘12 years is plenty’ for councilmembers. His ballot question uniquely limits Nancy Navarro to 9.5 years,” said Leventhal in a tweet about the ballot initiative.
Ficker, a lawyer and Republican activist, said his proposed referendum to limit council members to three four-year terms has drawn the unanimous ire of the County Council. At the June 21 council meeting, Leventhal said his opposition to the amendment is based on what he sees as unfair impact on Council member Nancy Navarro (D-4).
The proposed amendment’s provision to count partial and full terms the same would mean that Navarro, who first came onto the council in 2009, will have to step down without serving out a full three terms.
“Come to find out it has a very disparate impact on one council member, Council member Navarro, which was explicitly intended by Mr. Ficker,” Leventhal said. “He knew precisely what he was doing when he put the language in there to say a partial term. And for that reason I am publicly and strongly opposed to the term limits.”
The amendment would apply retroactively, meaning that all members of the council that have served at least three terms by the next county election in 2018 will have to step down from their seats. That would include Council members Leventhal, Nancy Floreen (D-At large), Roger Berliner (D-1), Marc Elrich (D-At large) and Nancy Navarro (D-4).
Leventhal said his opposition to the referendum is not based on self-preservation of his council seat, because he is not seeking another term on the council either way.
But Leventhal said he is considering running for County Executive when current County Executive Ike Leggett’s term ends in 2018. Ficker’s proposed amendment to the county charter would also limit the executive to three terms.
At the June 21 meeting, council-appointed Chairperson Paul Bessel of the County Charter Review Commission said he was against the referendum.
“What they lead to is turning the government over to the lobbyist or the permanent staff,“ said Bessel of the term limits.
At the meeting, the council asked the Charter Review Commission to do a report on whether term limits would benefit the County. However, Bessel has already come to a clear decision on the issue.
“I think unfortunately, particularly in this election year no matter how much solid information we give to the voters, I’m sorry to say I believe the voters may vote based on emotion rather than facts,” Bessel said.
Bessel said the Charter Review Commission has already prepared voter fact sheets in favor, against, or neutral on the question of term limits.
Term limit referendums have been tried before and failed, but Ficker said he thinks county residents are particularly upset this year after the council voted to increase property taxes by 8.7 percent for the average resident.
“The fix is in and the word is out on his closed fix system which has no new ideas–only tax increase ideas,” said Ficker of Leventhal.
Ficker said he has 12,000 signatures for his petition. For the referendum to make it onto this November’s ballot, 10,000 verified voter signatures are needed. Ficker said he is in the process of checking his petition signatures against the voter registry.
Neighboring Prince George’s County enacted a similar term limit amendment in 1992 through a referendum which limits council members to two four-year terms. A referendum in 2014 to extend the term limits from two to three terms was rejected.
“As one who has checked all these names and noted the party of the people who signed the petition,” Ficker said, “I think when he has attacked those who want term limits he’s attacking the people in his own party.”