Extended term for city commissioners on November 2019 ballot

BIG RAPIDS — The city of Big Rapids will be proposing an amendment to the charter of the city of Big Rapids come the November 2019 ballot.

The City Charter Amendment to Section 5.5(c) is proposed for the purpose of “increasing the number of years that members of the City Commission can serve on the City Commission from twelve consecutive years to twenty consecutive years.” During the November 2019 ballot, voters will have the opportunity to support or deny the amendment.

“By extending the term to 20 years, it would allow two consecutive terms as city commissioner and to run as mayor. This is what any other person could do in the elective process,” Mayor Tom Hogenson said.

Hogenson explained the situation, saying people who run for mayor have typically spend time as a city commissioner for the first two four-year terms, in hopes of learning the governmental ropes. However, Hogenson said the individual is already using eight of their 12 years by spending two terms on the board of city commissioners.

If the individual decides to run for another four-year term, but as mayor instead of city commissioner, they will only be able to be in office as mayor for one term, and the consecutive 12-year rule will prevent them from running for mayor again.

Hogenson said the current system puts incumbents, or those who wish to be re-elected in office, at a disadvantage, noting the only way for an individual to run for office again, would be to wait a year, and re-run.

“It slows things down,” Hogenson said. “This measure would correct that.”

The current process, according to Hogenson, is difficult because those who run for mayor and have been on the city commission aren’t able to run as long as someone who has no governmental experience and wants to run.

Ferris State University student Destiny Long-Scott agrees with Hogenson in regards to more time equaling more opportunity to be successful in a position.

“I think having more experience is important,” Long-Scott said.

Though Hogenson and Long-Scott see more time as a positive, other people are wondering why city government needs more than 12 years to get their work done.

“I think 12 years is plenty. If you can’t get it done in 12 years, what makes you think you’ll get it done in 20?” Jim Seeley said.

After hearing the proposed amendment, Seeley said, while he believes 12 years is a lot, he doesn’t see why government officials’ time in office is combined when it comes to being a city commissioner and running for mayor.

“It seems like if you’re mayor, you’d start your time frame over again,” he said. “City commission and mayor are two different things to me.”

Because of this, Seeley would not vote for the amendment to pass unless the amendment was re-worded. He said he believes 12 years on city commission is enough, and if they wanted to be mayor for eight years, he thinks they should allow that. However, he said he feels an individual shouldn’t be on the city commission for a total of 20 years.
FSU faculty Jody Maloney also said she wonders what the advantage is of having someone in office for 20 years, saying 12 years seems long enough as it is.

“I think incumbents can do well, but I think 20 years is a long time,” Maloney said, noting extended terms could cause government officials to become lax in their position. “The city needs to be vibrant.”

Voters will have a chance to voice their opinion on the proposed amendment during the November 2019 ballot.

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