Just up the road from Somerville, Stoneham voters will have the opportunity to do something to distinguish themselves from many other Massachusetts communities by imposing term limits on their Select Board. I have proposed a warrant article that would limit Select Board members to serving no more than six years and reduce the term of members from 3 years to 2 years. The “term limit” article is applicable ONLY to the Select Board. I have filed this citizens’ petition both as an incumbent in my second term and as the longest serving member of the board in an effort to place principles over politics even when it impacts my own political tenure. I am a firm believer in term limits at all levels of government from dog catcher to President.
Rotation in office is necessary to the proper functioning of government. When most politicians enter elected office, they they tend to be full of vigor and ambition. However, over time they tend to become closer to the special interests with whom they are in constant contact rather than the people they are supposed to represent. The advantages of incumbency also make entrenched incumbents difficult to remove from office.
New leaders should have a chance to serve in government. Elected officials can get stale. New leaders can bring a diversity of ideas, fresh perspectives, and are not wedded to old ways that may not be working well.
The great majority of voters support term limits. Interestingly, this is something on which Democrats, Republicans & Independents agree. Contested races with new candidates help engage a new and more diverse electorate. Massachusetts has the least competitive legislative races in the United States, and where has that gotten us? We are one of the highest taxed states in the nation with have one of the highest debts per capita, and the previous three House Speakers have all been convicted of felonies. That’s what one party government layered with entrenched incumbents has gotten us. Running against an incumbent costs time, money, and discourages people from running. Term limits ensure there is a change of leadership and helps motivate incumbents to perform as promised.
Career politicians cringe at the idea of term limits because they have made careers out of holding office. Term limits help reduce corruption by not allowing for long periods of time where one person or one group rules without fear of losing their seat.
This article serves to meet a concern raised by members of the Select Board who support a “recall article” which would allow special elections to recall ANY elected official in the town of Stoneham. “No one should remain in office for 3 years if they do something wrong” is what current Select Board members are touting as the reason for their petition. Yet, they failed to objectively define what something wrong might be. The article provides for recall for “conduct unbecoming” which is ambiguous and could subject the town to a recall election for purely political motives. I can easily imagine such an ambiguous standard being used for purposes of political intimidation against a pot stirrer that comfortable incumbents wish to remove. That’s why undefined recall without any objective criterion is dangerous for our town’s democracy in contrast with term limits that address leaving someone in office too long.
The 2-year term limit warrant serves as an automatic vote of confidence or a we want change initiative. Unlike the recall which can result in special election during inopportune times of year such as summer. We have annual town elections, and the term limits article would not cost the taxpayers one more dime for costly special elections while the recall could.
I can be reached by phone at (781)438-5720 or email with questions at ContactCarolineforinfo@gmail.com Caroline Colarusso is the Republican State Committeewoman for the towns of Stoneham, Reading, Winchester ( 1,2,3,8), Wakefield, and the cities of Melrose and Malden.