Opinion Columns & Blogs - INACTIVE

Term limits will help put government back in the hands of the people in Arlington

It’s time for term limits, Arlington, if it hasn’t become clear by the rumble in the distance.

That rumble? It’s the late Tommy Vandergriff turning in his grave. It grows louder every time his legacy is exhumed for political expediency by former politicians and out-of-town consultants.

Arlington’s current leaders can’t hold a candle to the integrity exhibited by Mayor Vandergriff. It’s illogical to suggest his leadership style is comparable to what Arlington faces today.

Today, citizens begrudgingly tolerate an out-of-touch mayor and city council. They know options are scarce, since nobody in recent history has been able to win a race without the blessing and financial backing of what’s aptly nicknamed the “good ol’ boy club.”

Arlington City Council
A group of citizens led a peition drive that led to a successful Arlington City Council term limits election in November.. Bill Hanna billhanna@star-telegram.com

Winning a position on city council is no longer about campaigning with high integrity, but instead about seeing which candidate can plant the most knives in their opponent’s back to peel away their big-money support.

This political posturing is not conducive to solving the problems faced by citizens.

And when citizens attempt to solve their own problems, they’re met with fierce resistance from the same mayor and council who should be on their side.

This is evidenced by the fact that the entire council, at the strong suggestion of donors, consultants, and special interest groups, attempted to hijack a citizen-led term limits petition that contained 11,433 signatures from Arlington residents.

Thankfully, a judge swatted this illegal interference down the next day by issuing a temporary restraining order against the mayor.

When citizens approved civil service for Arlington’s fire department in 2017, the city council retaliated by stripping firefighters of benefits. Many firefighters took significant hits because of the city council’s punitive response.

Remember red-light cameras? The city council fought that, too. They even, for political gain and without permission, used the name of a recently killed pedestrian to try and stump against removing the cameras. Citizens prevailed, and the council was disappointed it had lost one of its cash cows.

An incredible number of residents have reported sky-rocketing water bills; some as high as $600. When asked for answers, the council responded by raising rates.

Climbing property taxes are pushing good people and businesses out of Arlington. Rather than providing adequate relief, the council votes year-over-year to raise more taxes.

The term limits proposal is only “extreme” to those who endlessly engorge themselves and their bank accounts at the expense of taxpayers.

To be clear, term limits is not an end-all solution to citizens’ dissatisfaction with local government. They also don’t prevent the same good ol’ boys from continuing to fund their preferred candidates.

But it’s a start.

By cycling out council members every six years, it will effectively make it tough and expensive to continue purchasing politicians.

A census poll suggests that when Mayor Vandergriff was elected, Arlington had just under 8,000 residents. Today, Arlington has exploded to almost 400,000.

We live in a more dynamic city than the small community that existed during Vandergriff’s era.

Term limits will allow that dynamic to shine through by infusing new ideas and energy into our council on a regular basis.

It’s time to get back to basics, Arlington. Vote “for” term limits in the mid-term election, and let’s place the power of government back in its appropriate position: in the hands of the people.

Zack Maxell is an Arlington resident and coordinator of a campaign in favor of the term limit proposal.
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