Of the 20 incorporated towns and cities in San Mateo County, five – Redwood City, Foster City, San Mateo, Millbrae and Pacifica – have term limits for their council members.
Will Woodside join this group? At a recent Town Council meeting, Town Manager Kevin Bryant brought the topic up in replying to an October 2015 request by then mayor Tom Shanahan and Councilwoman Anne Kasten to schedule a discussion of term limits.
Term limits has some support and at least one opponent on the council.
Councilman Chris Shaw said he does not like the idea. "It's the responsibility of the electorate to make choices, and term limits, to me, they seem like a nanny-state solution to people not being willing to get engaged and cast a vote," he said. "If you don't like the system, vote to change it. Run. Find somebody else to run. ... Having to have the government make decisions for you is just abdication of your responsibility as a citizen."
Councilwoman Anne Kasten, while agreeing with Mr. Shaw's nanny-state point, said said she "very much" wants to discuss term limits, in part because deciding to run against an incumbent in a small town is a difficult decision. "Everybody knows everybody," she said. "It's a very uncomfortable situation." Mr. Shaw conceded that she had a point.
Ms. Kasten said she occasionally runs into people who thank her, but add that they're grateful for her service so they don't have to serve. "I don't think that is the way a democracy should run," she said. "I feel that we as a council need to bring people's attention to the fact that this is their town and that they need to participate in it. They need to contribute. I think it's really important ... (and) we owe it to our residents to have a conversation about it."
"My inclination," Councilman Tom Livermore said, "would be to adopt reasonable term limits." They can't be too short, he said, because the learning curve is too high, but "having some turnover over an extended period of time is a good thing."
Councilman Peter Mason and Daniel Yost and Mayor Deborah Gordon said they're open to the discussion.
Councilman Dave Tanner did not express an opinion at the meeting and has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Woodside voters would have to approve an ordinance to institute term limits.