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Tuesday: Woodside council to discuss term limits for council members

Five of the 20 communities in San Mateo County have term limits in place

Should Woodside have term limits for Town Council members? Of the 308 Woodside residents who responded to a question about term limits for Town Council members in a recent community survey, 50 percent responded positively to the idea, according to a staff report.

Survey results showed 92 respondents replied "very favorable" to the idea of term limits, and 63 answered "somewhat favorable." When asked how many terms should be allowed, of the 145 responses, 94 (65 percent) said they favored two terms.

The council plans to discuss a way forward on the question tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 27). The council meets at 7:30 p.m. in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road in Woodside.

The matter would have to be put before voters. The council would have the option of making arguments in favor or opposed to term limits, either as a body or as individuals, the staff report says.

Also on the agenda:

• The council will interview and consider appointing resident Peter Bailey to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission, and residents Richard (Dick) Brown or David Chad to fill one vacancy on the Architectural and Site Review Board.

• The council will discuss the results of an online community survey initiated Jan. 28, with results as of Feb. 22. The survey is an attempt to gauge residents' overall feelings of engagement with town government. Here are the results of the 18-question survey, including extensive comments from residents.

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 council members, a staff report says. The county limits membership on the Board of Supervisors to three terms.

The city of San Mateo has a three-term limit for council members. Foster City, Millbrae and Pacifica all have a two-term limit, and Redwood City has a four-term limit.

The Woodside council has the discretion to set term limits for its own members and for the Planning Commission, the Architectural and Site Review Board and any or all of the 11 citizen advisory committees, according to a previous staff report.

In a discussion in October 2016, Councilman (and current Mayor) Chris Shaw expressed opposition to term limits. "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," Mr. Shaw 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 at the time with Mr. Shaw's nanny-state point, said she "very much" wanted 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."

Most Woodside council elections are not contested.

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Dave Boyce

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