Two thousand, nine hundred and twenty; if Question 8 passes on the Johnston ballot, that is the maximum number of days that the next mayor of Johnston will have to make his or her mark on the town. Under the proposed amendment to Section 2-4 of the Home Rule Charter, future mayors in the town of Johnston would serve four-year terms with a two-term limit, for a total of eight years.
“I think term limits are important. You see what’s going on nationwide, and I think people really want to see term limits,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena.
Term limits are a perennial topic of discussion among candidates, especially those looking to unseat career politicians. Senate candidate Barry Hinckley, for example, said implementing Congressional term limits would be one of his first orders of business if elected.
If passed, the Johnston amendment would go into effect as of the next General Election in 2014, and that mayor would stay in office through 2022 at the latest.
“If you can’t get your agenda passed within eight years or so, then you’ve got an agenda,” Polisena said.
The mayor was first elected in 2005, so he is on the cusp of hitting that eight-year mark. He has no intention of stepping out of local politics but said the change would benefit future generations of Johnston residents.
“It’s got to start somewhere,” he said.
Polisena added that voters have the chance to hire or fire their local elected officials every two years, but ousting an incumbent isn’t easy, even if they have “worn out your welcome.”
“Incumbency has its advantages and it’s difficult for someone else trying to break into politics,” Polisena said.
In 2010, neighboring Cranston passed the same bond referendum. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has no opponent this year, so he begins his first four-year term in January. He felt it was an important change to the city charter, both to give politicians a chance to effect the change promised to voters, and also to allow administrations to attract quality candidates to municipal positions. Doing so, he said, is always a challenge when you can only guarantee an employee two years in that position, as department heads serve at the pleasure of a mayor or town administrator.
“We felt it was critically important for stability of government,” Fung said. “For any other community that has two-year terms and might have a new person into office, you really need four years to stabilize and put your vision and plan in place.”
Question 8 is phrased as: “Should Section 2-4 of the Home Rule Charter for the Town of Johnston be amended to establish a four-year term for the office of Mayor and to establish a term limit of two four-year terms, to be effective as of the next General Election?”