Term limits for Grapevine City Council on May 11 ballot

Posted Monday, Apr. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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For nearly two years, a small but vocal group called Better Grapevine has pushed to get term limits for City Council members in front of voters.

Their efforts will be rewarded when voters decide on May 11 whether the city charter should be changed to enact term limits.

“It’s a huge undertaking and we’re ready to vote,” said Kathleen Thompson, a member of Better Grapevine.

Thompson said the group has grown from a half a dozen core members to dozens of volunteers who have been working to further their cause.

“For a year and a half, young parents, professionals and grandparents from across the partisan political spectrum signed and circulated petitions for term limits,” she said. “They were successful.”

Last October, the City Council accepted a petition with more than 1,400 valid signatures. The signatures were an endorsement of an initiative that would establish a nine-year limit on mayor and council seats.

Council members had little reaction when they were presented with 186 pages of petitions calling for the change.

“It’s a thick stack,” Thompson said.

Councilman Roy Stewart said the requirement to put the issue on a ballot “was a process” they needed to go through.

Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully against Stewart in 2011, lauded the “dedication of volunteers” who went door-to-door and worked off lists of registered voters to lessen the possibility of having invalid signatures.

Organizers needed 1,172 signatures, at least 5 percent of the city’s registered voters. On Oct. 1, the necessary signatures were validated, said Jodi Brown, Grapevine city secretary.

A Democrat, Thompson said limiting consecutive terms in office is not a personal issue against any specific person.

“It is a non-partisan issue,” she said. “It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat, Republican or an independent. I think that it’s important to serve your community. But a near decade in office in City Council is plenty of time to make your mark on the city.”

Thompson said Better Grapevine is using social media to help change the city’s charter. She said supporters have set up an active website and a new Facebook page, and are using Twitter’s video service, named “Vine,” to share testimonials for term limits.

“Grapevine is a community with diverse ages, races and partisan views, but support for term limits supersedes all,” Thompson said. “Vine video testimonials from an engineer, stay-at-home mom, a banker, a salesman, a musician and others cite numerous reasons for support of term limits, many mentioning accountability and new ideas.”

The idea of term limits is unheard of in Grapevine, a city of less than 30,000 registered voters where incumbents have dominated elections for 30 years.

If approved by voters, current incumbents could serve three more terms before leaving office. They also could take a year off and run again for any elected position.

Mayor William D. Tate has served as Grapevine’s mayor since 1973, with the exception of a three-year stint from 1985 to 1988. Councilwoman Sharron Spencer and Mayor Pro Tem C. Shane Wilbanks have both served since 1985. Two other council members — Darlene Freed and Stewart — were elected in the mid-1990s.

Tate disagrees with term limits, saying, “Term limits tread on people’s constitutional rights Why take away the power from the people?”

He said term limits “will cause turmoil with people changing all the time. They’ll never get the confidence and support in the community to make the tough decisions.”

Councilman Mike Lease, who was elected to Place 3 in 2007, is running against Leon Leal. Incumbent Darlene Freed faces challenger Marc Blum for Place 4.

Lease said term limits are unnecessary and there is a system in place that’s working.

“It’s called the election process,” he said.

This report contains material from Star-Telegram archives.

Marty Sabota, 817-30-7367

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