While the public portion of the Town of Huntington Board's Sept. 21 meeting depicted an overwhelming opposition to the proposed resolution pertaining to term limits, amidst its defeat on Tuesday night, both the public commentary and vote results reflected a far more even-handed stance.
While Town Supervisor Frank Petrone and Councilman Mark Mayoka voted in favor of the resolution, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson and Councilwomen Glenda Jackson and Susan Berland defeated the resolution to the relief of the majority of the public at Town Hall on Tuesday evening.
The proposed resolution would have prevented elected officials – town supervisor, Town Council members, receiver of taxes, town clerk and highway superintendent – from serving more than three four-year terms in the same position.
Petrone showed support for term-limiting resolution, that if enacted, would have prohibited him from resuming office almost four years ago. He explained the connection between term limits, opportunity and the different levels of government.
"Opportunity for those who want to enter is very bleak without term limits," Petrone said. "It gives people the opportunity to move in different directions and brings the local perspective to higher levels of government – we can't do this without encouraging different opportunities at different levels."
Petrone continued to parallel imposing term limits at the local level with the high levels of government: "There are term limits from the federal level, all the way down to the local," he said. "The county even has term limits and that seems to work."
On the contrary, Jackson advocated experience and the will of the public. She said, "Through the election process, the decision should be up to the people. Aside, there is a benefit to incumbency and experience."
The public comment, on either side of the resolution, reflected the issues discussed by the board members during the discussion prior to the vote.
However, while the board members appeared concerned with opportunity in government, incumbency and the election process, some of the public associated voting with accountability.
Eileen Darwin, a resident of Huntington for more than 48 years, discussed how she felt term limits defeat the constitutional right to vote.
Bringing the resolution down to a more personal level, she spoke directly to the board: "We know how you feel and vote," she said. "And if we don't like you, we'll vote you out."
Peter Nichols, who unsuccessfully ran against Petrone for the Town Supervisor position in the 2009 election, shared his disappointment following the defeat of the resolution as well as future plans on term limits: "I'm going to move forward to put together a committee for a petition for a referendum on two consecutive term limits for elected officials on the 2011 ballot."