Arlington residents will vote on whether to impose term limits on their mayors and city council members, thanks to a group of citizens who successfully petitioned to add the issue to the November ballot.
Citizens presented a petition to Arlington City Council on Monday that calls for limiting mayors and city council members to three two-year terms – a maximum of 12 years of combined service in both elected city offices.
Implementing term limits requires amending the city’s charter. Texas’ Local Government Code sets out the process for voter-initiated charter amendments. Cities must put an amendment to a vote if citizens submit a petition signed by five percent of the city’s registered voters. In Arlington, that’s approximately 9,300 signatures.
At a press conference on Independence Day, activists announced they had successfully collected over 11,000 petition signatures — more than enough to trigger a vote on term limits. Once election officials verify the signatures, city council will call an election on the charter amendment, to be held on the next uniform election date.
At least a dozen cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex already have term limits in their city charters, according to the Arlington Term Limits website.
“Voters deserve an opportunity to have term limits in Arlington too,” says Zack Maxwell, the local activist and Arlington Voice publisher behind the petition drive.
The goal, says Maxwell, is to return control of local government to the people, not career politicians.
“The days of citizens being railroaded, ignored, and flagrantly disregarded are done,” Maxwell said at Monday’s press conference.
Term limits allow for better representation, advocates argue, by allowing new people to serve who are more responsive to taxpayers than to special interests. “Open races invite quality candidates to run who otherwise would never consider it if an incumbent is on the ballot,” Maxwell said.
“Term limits are only bad for incompetent, corrupt, elitist politicians,” adds term-limits activist Samantha Trimble, who also spoke at the press conference.
Maxwell credits a bipartisan team of more than 80 volunteers, plus 30 businesses and associations, for completing the petition process with little time or money. They started collecting signatures on April 27 and spent approximately $2,000.
Arlington activist Kelly Canon told Texas Scorecard she’s thrilled Maxwell and his team were able to pull off a successful petition drive in just two months – much faster than the six months state law allows.
“It just goes to show that a hotly debated issue such as term limits can generate voter interest at such an amazing level,” says Canon, a leader of the successful petition drive for a 2015 referendum to ban red-light cameras in Arlington. “There’s a new day coming to Arlington!” she added.
Trimble reminded residents that term-limits advocates have much more work to do to accomplish their goal.
“We may have gotten enough signatures to get this referendum on the ballot, but this fight has just begun,” Trimble said. “We still have to fight to get term limits passed in the fall.”
Arlington City Council is expected to take up the petition in August and set an election on the term-limits charter amendment for November 6.