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Elected officials should be allowed only so much fun

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By Kirsten Laskey

Serving a maximum of eight years as an elected official is enough fun, Los Alamos County Councilors agreed during their regular meeting Tuesday night. When asked to consider joining the New Mexico Association of Counties’ (NMAC) support of Amendment 2 to the state Constitution, the councilors agreed to take no action.
Currently, county elected officials are restricted to serving two consecutive four-year terms. If the voters approve the resolution during this year’s election then the amendment would allow county officials to serve a third term.
NMAC also plans to release a brochure to inform voters about the amendment. The brochure will have both pro and con arguments.  
County Councilor Sharon Stover said the primary reason behind the amendment is to help out smaller counties that have trouble with finding people to run for office.
Councilor Ralph Phelps said he did not support the amendment because it seemed to be a lobbying resolution. Typically, he said, the council is asked to approve a resolution for a policy statement or action. Because Phelps believed this resolution was different, he asked County Attorney Randy Autio for his opinion.
Autio said generally speaking a resolution can do many things and the council is able to show support for this particular resolution. “There’s not anything inappropriate about that,” he said.
Despite this, Phelps said eight years is long enough. Having term limits allows more people to hold office, he said, prevents ideas from being recycled, eliminates having “good ole’ boys” and stimulates change.
He added, “Once again, we should refrain from lobbying.”
Councilor Robert Gibson questioned having the extended term limits be uniformed across the state. He wondered why there was not a local option so that each county could decide whether to adopt longer-term limits. A local option would be able to help out low population counties but extended term limits would not be imposed onto larger counties, he said.
Stover said, “It seems that was not an interest of the legislature at that time.”
Councilor Nona Bowman said she felt that more input from the public might be needed regarding the amendment.  Not everyone had hesitations regarding this amendment. Councilor Mike Wheeler said the federal and state government did not have any term limits and he believed county government should be treated with the same standards as other levels of government.
Stover added the voters will still decide who will get into office. Nothing, she said, will be taken away from voters.
To ensure voters and the public have a good understanding the resolution, Phelps made a substitute motion, which directed staff to draft a new resolution to encourage voters to become educated about the amendment and provide the arguments for and against the amendment.
Stover said the pros and cons of the amendment were already being addressed in the NMAC’s brochure.
Councilor Vincent Chiravalle said he didn’t feel the council should join NMAC in supporting the resolution because it would seem they are encouraging the public to vote a certain way. Plus, he said the public knows best and therefore it isn’t necessary to educate them about extending term limits.
Council Chair Mike Wismer agreed. Elected officials should only be allowed a certain amount of fun, he said, adding that there really isn’t any need to educate people about the differences between two and three term limits.
As a result, council agreed to take no action.