Voters will determine: Can they stay or must they go?

The fate of term limits and other miscellaneous items are on the ballot.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA, Times Correspondent
Published January 27, 2008

SOUTH PASADENA - On Tuesday, voters here will get a chance to reconsider whether the city's mayor and commissioners should be subject to term limits.

Under the city charter, elected officials must leave office after serving three full terms, or nine years.

If they are appointed first, there is a possibility they could serve 10 years before being forced to step down from office.

That is what happened to long-time Mayor Fred Held in 2004. He was forced to retire after serving 10 years as mayor and 11 years as a commissioner before that.

It also happened this year to Commissioner Chris Burgess who, because of term limits, could not run for re-election in March.

Tuesday, South Pasadena voters will be asked to vote on a charter amendment that would eliminate term limits for the mayor and city commissioners.

This is more liberal than a proposed charter amendment from 2002, which would have kept term limits but extended the allowable number of terms to four, or up to 12 consecutive years in office.

If Tuesday's charter amendment is approved, there would be no limit on the number of years a commissioner or mayor could serve.

Supporters of the proposed change argue that a city of fewer than 6,000 residents has enough trouble finding people willing to serve in office without the added complication of term limits.

Whatever their decision, voters also will be asked to decide four other "housekeeping" changes to the city charter recommended by a special Charter Review Committee. The changes would:

- Require the City Commission to hold a public hearing before it could spend tax dollars to influence how residents might vote in any future referendum. Such a public hearing would not obligate the commission to any particular action, however.

- Extend the deadline for certifying referendum petitions and holding elections on those petitions in order to comply with time frames set by the Pinellas County supervisor of elections.

- Require that all members of the city's Charter Review Committee be registered voters of the city and eliminate the requirement that committee membership include a city department head. City administrators would, instead, serve as staffers to the committee.

- Require members of the Charter Review Committee to be present at meetings when they vote on proposed changes to the city charter.