Proposal on term limits to be aired Council meeting set at social hall


Westminster residents can hear proposals at tomorrow night's City Council meeting to limit the mayor's and council members' terms in office, require candidates to report campaign contributions over $50, and create an environmental advisory board.

The council is to meet at 7 p.m. in the Westminster Fire Company's social hall.

Councilman Damian L. Halstad plans to introduce a charter change that would bar elected officials from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms. However, a retiring council member could run for mayor in the next election and vice versa. A council member could run for council again two years after retiring, since the council has staggered terms. A mayor would have to sit out four years before seeking a return to office.

The idea is to open local government to more potential officeholders, Mr. Halstad said. He researched Westminster elections for the past 20 years and found that only one incumbent lost, two mayoral and two council elections attracted no challengers, and seven council elections had fewer challengers than the number of seats open. "I think it will increase participation," he said. "New blood is good for all governments, including local governments."

His charter change is more likely to pass than a two-term limit proposed in August 1992 by former Council President William F. Haifley. Unlike the Haifley proposal, Mr. Halstad's would not require incumbents to resign their posts to run for another office.

Mr. Haifley's proposal, introduced at a time of tension between himself and Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, was perceived by some council members as an attempt to limit the mayor's political options. Mr. Haifley denied that his legislation was aimed at the mayor, but the four voting members of the council rejected the measure.

Mayor Brown said he would not oppose Mr. Halstad's proposal for term limits, although, "Philosophically, I don't see a need for it here at the local level. I see a need for it in Washington, where people are out of sight."

Council President Kenneth A. Yowan and Mr. Halstad are backing a requirement that candidates for city offices report contributions of more than $50. City office candidates currently have no campaign financial disclosure rules.

Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein and Mr. Brown are jointly sponsoring an ordinance to create an environmental advisory board, although the two differ on qualifications for the board.

Mr. Brown said he would appoint people with planning or technical backgrounds. But he would bar, for example, an environmental activist who opposes incineration of waste.

Ms. Orenstein, who has been researching how environmental advisory boards work in other towns for a year, said she wouldn't want to rule out anyone, whether from the business community or individual citizens. "People who have understanding and training are going to be activists," she said. "Activism is not a bad word."

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