This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6, 2011 - yes on 1A

For a long time, I didn't have any feelings about term limits one way or the other. But when Colorado adopted them I began to notice some things.

First, of course, state limits on Congressional terms were struck down by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1995. So no other state was going to have Congressional term limits. Given that the most powerful Congressional committee appointments are often made on the basis of seniority, it wouldn't serve us well for Colorado always to be the new kid.

Second, I've testified several times over the years before various state legislative committees. The difference in decorum before and after term limits was pronounced.

Before term limits, many of the senators and representatives had been there for a long time. They had relationships based on mutual trust. They understood that bills were complex and interconnected.

After term limits, that lack of history led to several unintended consequences. For one thing, in my observation, legislators were noticeably ruder to each other and the public. For another, with less time to build coalitions, legislators tended to run on a few narrow issues, make a lot of noise about them, then leave before they had to deal with the consequences.

Far too often, term limits are a lazy man's democracy. It's a system where voters want to exercise control over those in office, but aren't willing to do the work to make an informed decision. It's power without responsibility.

There are some elected officials who do a terrible job and get re-elected. There are some wonderful elected officials who get "termed out" just when they're hitting their stride. I consider both results a failure of citizenship.

On the other hand, at the local level term limits may make a little more sense, at least for some positions. For a few purely political jobs the people may want to rein in a candidate's will to power, and encourage more participation and diversity of opinion.

But other positions are more technical and professional in nature. There's an investment in training for the official that represents a real asset to the community.

This fall, Douglas County voters will be asked to extend the term limits for the Sheriff's office from two four-year terms to three. No one is trying to do away with term limits altogether, just add one term to this particular job description.

The sheriff's office is one of those technical jobs, greatly benefiting from the training of the person who holds it.

More to the point, Sheriff Dave Weaver is one of the good elected officials. He's a smart administrator who has built a good team. He pays attention and is responsive to our community.

If you don't track local law enforcement as a matter of course, spend some time on the Sheriff's website (www.dcsheriff.net). Under his leadership, the Sheriff's office has racked up an impressive record of achievement. Tossing him out has no benefit to us, and may do harm.

I represent no one but myself on this issue. But I will be voting FOR 1A. Let's make a decision this time based on the actual performance of the candidate, not because the clock struck some arbitrary hour.

LaRue's Views are his own.

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