“No” on 4-Year Terms For Cincinnati City Council

One of the local issues asks Cincinnatians to change the term of office for city council members from two to four years.  This benefits the incumbents, but not the citizens they serve.

Main Argument Presented “For” the change: Less Campaigning. Yes, there was a comment somewhere that having four-year terms would relieve the council members from having to campaign for a little more than nine months after serving for just fourteen months.  The current philosophy may “inconvenience” current office holders, but not new blood attempting to help the city.  (enough reason to keep two-year terms!)   By having to campaign just every four years, it would cut down on the amount of time available to bombard our lives with ads.  That may be enticing, but not sufficient to change to a “yes” vote.

The real problem with this argument could stem from the likelihood that city council members are confusing the breadth of their responsibilities and geographic area they serve with those of statewide officials who are elected every four years.  State office holders affect many more people and achieving name recognition with their constituents takes more time.  It would be inefficient for them to spend roughly 40% of their time campaigning instead of doing the job the taxpayers are paying for.

Individuals elected to the U.S. House of Representatives have to cover more area and people than city council members do.  Yet, they are able to execute the duties of their position and campaign an appropriate amount of time with two-year terms.  City council members are at no disadvantage with the current two-year arrangement.  Going to four years is an accommodation to them and is further unjustified by the next reason.

Accountability is more critical than Continuity on the local level.  As previously mentioned, statewide elected officials are accountable for a much greater area.  Getting the job done is a more difficult undertaking than handling issues of the individual cities.  Projects take more planning and time to execute.  Continuity is essential for steering the “aircraft carrier” of the state.  The typical city, being a smaller entity akin to a boat (or a yacht as some treat it), is more maneuverable.  A city can and must be more flexible than a state.  Things can happen quicker in a city and the citizens deserve being able to hold council members accountable on a two-year basis.  Bad decisions can be implemented faster on the city level and the voters need the protection of being able to “get the bums out” sooner.

Finally, lengthy campaigns are not necessary to run for city council.  Name recognition is much easier to obtain in a much smaller jurisdiction.  To campaign for 9+ months every two-year cycle for a small area is absurd and a waste of tax revenue.  If anything, the issue before the voters should not concern four-year terms, but rather a limit on time spent campaign.  The Fourth of July or perhaps even Labor Day should be the start of the campaign season for these officials!

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