By Jillian Diamond
As the 2019 College Park city elections approach, residents are considering an advisory question on this year’s ballot: whether city officials should serve two- or four-year terms. The city has long had a history of two-year terms for its mayor and city council, and this question could shake up local politics. College Park politicians have long served two-year terms, and the results of this ballot could significantly change how town politics operate.
There are specifically two different advisory questions on the ballot about the issue: the first simply asks whether constituents would prefer that their politicians serve two- or four-year terms. The second, for those who answered yes to lengthening politicians’ terms, asks them how the new term system should operate – concurrently, where all College Park politicians will receive four-year terms starting in 2020, or if it should be staggered, with half of them receiving four-year terms and the other half receiving two-year terms. With the latter option, term lengths will be alternated, with the mayor and half the city council starting with the new four-year terms.
“We understand and certainly appreciate the need to be held accountable to voters,” said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn. “But having a new election every two years makes it challenging for us to set goals and stick to them. By the time you learn the ropes, you’re up for election again.”
The change was first proposed at a city council retreat at the beginning of 2018, Wojahn said. The council raised concerns that the frequency of elections in College Park creates continuity issues for city policy, as things that politicians are working on are interrupted every two years by elections. They then hired a committee to discuss the pros and cons of potentially increasing term length, and to survey the public for feedback on the proposed change. This all culminated in an extensive report, and the new advisory questions being placed on the ballot.
The motion to extend the length of politicians’ terms has received a mixed reception from the public – many agree that two years is too short a time period for politicians to take effective and meaningful action. Others worry that lengthening the terms will give them too much power, and prevent change in the community. The full report, released on May 31, indicated that public reception towards the change was overwhelmingly negative, with 82 comments opposing the change and 10 supporting it. Local government officials say that they hear people’s concerns, though, and their actions will reflect how people vote. “An advisory referendum isn’t binding,” said Mayor Wojahn, “But many, including me, plan to vote according to the referendum’s results.”
Election Day will be on Tuesday, November 5, from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Constituents will be able to vote at College Park’s three voting centers: Davis Hall, Ritchie Coliseum and the Stamp Student Union.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of the City of College Park’s Facebook page.
Jillian Diamond is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.