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Term Limits -- City of Tampa Charter Amendments

Two ballot questions ask Tampa residents whether they want to repeal term limits for the mayor and City Council.

By WAYNE WASHINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Voters imposed term limits for the mayor of Tampa and City Council members in 1983. A statewide vote nine years later reaffirmed that position for the House and Senate.

Two terms is enough, voters said.

But two votes apparently isn't. For the third time in 20 years, Tampa voters will get an opportunity to decide if the mayor and City Council should be limited to two terms.

Tampa voters will be faced with separate amendments on Tuesday's ballot.

Council members and the mayor are now limited to two four-year terms. Council members can get around that by switching from a district seat to a citywide position, and vice versa. Four of the council's seven members represent specific districts; three are elected on a citywide basis, as is the mayor.

Referendum supporters, however, were not thinking of the council when they pushed for this proposal to be on the ballot.

They had one person in mind: Mayor Dick Greco. He will have to leave office in three years if the referendum does not pass. Greco's popularity is on the line: Will voters put aside their love of term limits to keep him in office?

Greco, who has been elected mayor four times, opposes term limits but refuses to commit to a fifth term if they are overturned. He also refuses to lead the campaign.

His friends hope he will run again, and they want the path cleared just in case.

"It's the only office in a true sense that has term limits," said Joe Voskerichian, an old friend of Greco's who is leading the campaign to overturn term limits. Since council members can switch districts, Voskerichian argues, they are not truly limited.

The group could spend as much at $50,000 campaigning against term limits, which Voskerichian said voters approved before seeing the progress of the Greco administration.

But those opposed to overturning term limits say the amendment shouldn't be changed for the sake of one man.

"To repeal them now would be a direct affront to what the voters decided," said Bob Buckhorn, a council member who has made no secret of his interest in running for mayor in 2003. "If you can't do the job in eight years, someone else ought to be given an opportunity."

The Hillsborough Democratic Party opposes the the referendum, said local party chairman Mike Scionti.

Scionti said he once opposed term limits but has changed his mind.

"The more people that get a chance to participate in the government, the better," Scionti said.

ON THE BALLOT

Tampa residents will vote yes or no to the following questions:

AMENDMENT NO. 1: Shall the amendment to the Revised Charter of the City of Tampa of 1975, as amended, eliminating term limits for the Mayor, as set out and proposed by City of Tampa Ordinance No. 2000-160, be ratified and approved?

AMENDMENT NO. 2: Shall the amendment to the Revised Charter of the City of Tampa of 1975, as amended, eliminating term limits for members of the City Council, as set out and proposed by City of Tampa Ordinance No. 2000-161, be ratified and approved?

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