Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double the length of their council members’ terms.
City Council voted 6-3 on Aug. 1 to put the ballot initiative before voters. The measure would have all nine members run at the same time, instead of a competing ballot initiative that would have staggered their terms.
“We are the only major city in Ohio that still has two-year terms for its leaders, and the cities that we compete with are also moving to four-year terms, including Louisville and as far as St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver and Atlanta,” says Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who spearheaded the effort.
If approved by voters, the change wouldn’t affect council members serving currently and would go into effect in 2013.
Not every council member was thrilled with the idea.
“I think accountability is paramount, and I don’t see going from two-year terms to four-year terms as increasing the accountability citizens want,” says Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who was one of three new faces to join council in last year’s election.
“I’m sure it’s not lost on my colleagues that last November the electorate was craving change and wanted change, and if we had been in the middle of a four-year cycle they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make that change and a substantial portion of this council … wouldn’t be sitting up here today.”
Quinlivan has said her rationale for pushing four-year terms would be to eliminate the cycle that currently has sitting council members spending half of their terms campaigning.
Councilman Cecil Thomas says four-year terms would allow council members to focus on longer-term projects as well.
“Four years gives us plenty of time to gel together, to work together,” Thomas says.