A discussion of term limits is likely to spark a lively debate among council members at tonight's City Council meeting.
Under an amendment to Anaheim's charter from 1992, elected officials are allowed to serve two consecutive four-year terms as either council members or mayor. Those who have served for eight years can hold office again after taking a break for two.
The council is considering either abandoning term limits or establishing separate eight-year term limits for the offices of mayor and City Council at the recommendation of a council-appointed charter review committee.
Opinions about term limits among council members are divided. Some members say the council should not attempt to overturn what voters overwhelmingly approved in 1992.
"The will of the people is eight years, and that's what they expect," Councilwoman Lucille Kring said. "Local government was never meant to be for career politicians."
Others say that although some form of term limits should stay in place, the charter's structure is flawed. Councilwoman Shirley McCracken said that with some council members up for election in years different than the mayor, someone could be excluded from running for mayor though they had only served half a term as a council person.
For instance, McCracken and Councilman Tom Tait were elected in 1996 and will run again in November. But Mayor Tom Daly will not finish his term until 2002. Thus, the two council members could not run for the mayor's office because an additional term would exceed the term limit of eight years.
Only Kring and Councilman Frank Feldhaus, elected in 1998, would be eligible to run for mayor.
McCracken suggests changing the wording of the charter so council members in the middle of a term can still run for mayor even though they will exceed the eight-year limit.
She said electing all the officials at once, rather than staggering the elections, would also solve the problem. But especially with term limits in place, that could leave Anaheim with an inexperienced council and mayor. Those running at times staggered from the mayor could also get around the problem by taking two years off after their first term, however, they would lose the advantage of incumbency.
McCracken admitted that no solution is ideal. But she said it's all worth considering. "We need to talk out some of the solutions, and do something that would still manage to have term limits," she said. "But we have to have something that is workable."
Even if the council can agree on changes, the matter would still have to go before voters for approval.
Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.