If Woodside voters are ever to decide on the question of whether members of the Woodside Town Council should be subject to term limits any time soon, the voters will have to get together and propose an initiative.
Mayor Chris Shaw on Tuesday night, Feb. 27, acting on a consensus of his colleagues, tabled a discussion on the subject to some future time. His decision followed some 30 minutes of arguments for and against the council putting the question on the November 2018 ballot.
Councilman Peter Mason got the discussion rolling by saying that citizens, not the council, should be taking the initiative to put the question before voters.
Mr. Shaw pointed out the flaws he says are inherent in a recent community survey in which half the respondents said they favored term limits. The survey was unscientific, he said, and involved around 12 percent of the town's population. The council chambers were all but empty for that night's discussion, he noted.
"If people really care, they show up," he said. He recalled the standing-room-only audience that gathered in Independence Hall in March 2017 when the council addressed the pig scramble – a controversial event at the annual junior rodeo in which children try to capture pigs in an arena.
The mayor said he would be "delighted to have (a term-limit question) on the ballot were it to come up from the citizenry and have people in here saying, 'You guys are all a bunch of bums,' but it would be just as easy for them not to vote for us."
Councilman Dave Tanner, a longtime council member, agreed, commenting further that term limits are more appropriate for federal representatives than local ones.
"It's guys like me who hang around and keep doing their job, all right, and we bring in some wisdom and stuff from the past," Mr. Tanner said. "(People) who understand where the town is going and where it's been. I don't think it should be up to us to put it on the ballot."
Councilwoman Anne Kasten said she was saddened by indications in the survey that many people were not paying much attention to what's going on in town. If the voters aren't paying attention to matters of importance to the town and the council is paying attention, then it is incumbent on the council to form questions for the voters to consider, she said.
"We are here to do things we think are good for the long-term vitality of the town," Ms. Kasten said. "If we think that this is something the town should be pondering and vote on, then I think it should be put out there. I feel that very strongly."
Councilman Tom Livermore, with subsequent support from Councilwoman Deborah Gordon and Councilman Daniel Yost, argued for the council asking voters about term limits simply because half the respondents to the survey indicated they were in favor of it.
Ms. Gordon said she thought it obvious that term limits should be voted on. But she later appeared to come over to Mr. Shaw's side of the argument.
With term limits and with few people running for election, she said, the council could end up with empty seats. That situation could raise questions about the utility of the town's longstanding requirement that council members live in particular neighborhoods so as to represent the whole town.