Brad Messer Commentary
8:15 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2003

Term limits were a bad idea

San Antonio voters decided in 1990 to spank city hall by establishing short term limits for mayor and council members.

Voter turnout has declined. Back room operators have gained influence. City staff, the city manager and other semi-permanent hirelings run things. New councilmen barely learn how to run their offices before they are term-limited out. Councilmen propose short-term projects because long-term ones don’t happen.

During the last part of a councilman’s second two-year term, he is likely to pay less attention to city business, and more to what’s next for him. Three councilmen [Juan Solis, Rick Vasquez, Jose Melendez] resigned before their second terms ended, to take other jobs.

Newspaperman Bruce Davidson is correct. He writes, “The rapid turnover created by the city's term limits rule has led to a flood of council members who lack the necessary skills to be effective, and excessive reliance on lobbyists ... The combination of pervasive influence by lobbyists and a lack of stature by council members has shifted too much power to backroom manipulators.”

It was lobbyists who allegedly paid cash for council votes.

Term limits were the wrong solution to the right problem. It’s high time to admit that, and move on to solutions that might have a chance of actually working.

Don’t think so? Answer this: what has become better in city government since 1990 because of term limits?

Brad Messer— commentary, KTSA.


UTSA Metropolitan Research Institute, 2002
The Impact of San Antonio's Term Limit on Political Participation Over Time

San Antonio express-News Feb. 2, 2003
Bruce Davidson: Term limit rule hurts the Alamo City

Back to Brad's home page | Commentary Archive