Schuyler County adopts term limits

term limits

Term limits are often promoted by those who are dissatisfied with their representatives. They fail to recognize that term limits are indiscriminate–they might well go from bad to worse. Nonetheless, Schuyler County legislators will now be limited to three terms in office, up to 12 years. Why did they do that?


    • “Legislators run for reelection with no guarantee of return. To impose anything else is redundant.”–Thomas Gifford (R-Montour Falls)
    • “It’s much more healthy for the legislature, and it’s much more healthy for the taxpayers.”–Barbara Halpin (R-Odessa)
    • “Clearly the electorate is not involved. It’s a sad truth.”–Barbara Halpin (R-Odessa)
    • “Any rational person watching our leaders in Albany and Washington would certainly see the need for term limits.”–Dennis Fagin (R-Tyrone)

Thomas Gifford, who has served more than 12 years, believes the voters should be free to elect and reelect whomever they will. I agree. Barbara Halpin argues that new people and new ideas are healthy. That may be true, but if the voters wish they can accomplish that without aid.  If the voters are not involved as Halpin claims, forcing them to make a disinterested choice after 12 years is unlikely to be helpful. Dennis Fagin’s observation, which begs the question, adds nothing to the debate.

Absent here is the argument that legislators who become entrenched in office are no longer responsible to the voters and so should be replaced. Sometimes this may be true, but again I think it better for the voters to take action rather than enacting term limits which may deprive them of the services of worthy representatives.

Sidney Graubard (R-Horseheads), who has served in the Chemung County legislature for 34 years, will seek reelection. The voters can turn him out if dissatisfied, but I doubt they will. They may value his experience and dedication.

Rep. Tom Reed says he favors term limits and now intends to serve no more than 12 years, but his constituents needn’t depend on that. If we feel he doesn’t deserve reelection, we can turn him out this fall.

© William Hungerford – May 2014



About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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17 Responses to Schuyler County adopts term limits

  1. josephurban says:

    I don’t think that thought term limits are a good idea. But I do think longer terms of office would be a good idea. As it stands now members of the House spend their entire lives campaigning. I would rather see 4 year terms for the House. I think they would get more accomplished if they weren’t constantly worrying about being re-elected and constantly fund raising.


  2. whungerford says:

    Joseph, thanks for your comment. I think the time spent fund raising and the length of the term are somewhat unrelated. Even with four year terms for Representatives, much time might be wasted on fundraising and campaigning. Perhaps better to address that issue with campaign finance reform. Better yet, the voters could insist that their representatives refrain from pointless campaign posturing. Longer terms might lead to representatives taking a longer view, but longer terms have at least one drawback–voters would have less frequent chances to remove an unsatisfactory representative.

    Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) proposes annually that the Twenty-second Amendment imposing term limits on the President be repealed. One argument against this is that the strain of serving for eight years may be enough for any President.


  3. Deb Meeker says:

    I find myself flip-flopping on this topic. All points you’ve mentioned William, are valid. Previously, I agreed wholeheartedly with term limits. My reasoning being two thoughts: as social, global, and technological changes occur, fresh perspectives may need to be introduced. And, sincerely caring politicians could eventually spurn public interest, if they believed their jobs were “safe” for extended periods (gerrymandering).

    The issues of constant campaigning bring more questions. Is it good for the public to consistently be made aware of what their representation is up to? Does constant campaigning for funding create an atmosphere of compromise or lop-sided alliance? In order for real campaign finance reform to be addressed, we would have to have enough honest politicians elected to bite the bullet and do it. And in order for that to happen, they have to collect enough money to run..

    What would anyone say to electing a President for 8 years to begin with? How about Senate and House Representatives for 4 years, and Supreme Court Justices for 16 years max (all term limited for those numbers of years). Yes, experience counts, as does apathy, or conversely – too much power in overly secure positions. Would these term limits create a “get it while I can” attitude, or a strong desire to make a difference for the people of their country?


  4. whungerford says:

    If it were true that long-serving officials are never worthy, then term limits might be a solution. But if the problem is that the electorate is not involved as Barbara Halpin asserted, then term limits are futile–uninvolved voters can’t be relied on to elect someone better.


  5. Deb Meeker says:

    I highly doubt that neither all long term politicians become unworthy, nor that all politicians are elected or re-elected due to the apathy of their opponent’s followers. Some representation has as Halpin points out, has been eliminated by redistricting. Gerrymandering is also a factor in many states. In my opinion, NY 23rd district may be too large to be adequately covered by one representative.
    Frankly, I am weary of hearing long term, out of touch Senators (McCain) and Congress (Boehner) members using their “experience and gathered wisdom” to undermine the growth of this country, and usurp sane foreign policy. Admittedly, having them replaced by rash younger members ( Cruz and Ryan) goes from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Sigh.


  6. josephurban says:

    Deb. It is a conundrum for me, too. Now that campaign finance reform has been flushed down the toilet by the SCOTUS it really makes it difficult for regular folks to win elections. I liked your point about the changes in technology and society. Think about it. Anyone over the age of 60 was born into a nation that had legal segregation, outlawed abortion and in some places contraceptives, severely limited voting rights, kept gays in the closet, did not allow some women financial control over their own money, and hid the disabled in institutions. And what a different world in terms of technology! How many of our decision makers in Congress are from that generation? Yet, as you say, some if the “young studs” don’t have a clue. They have no sense of history or compassion. A conundrum.


  7. Deb Meeker says:

    Thanks Joe . Of course now you’ve turned me right around, since the leadership of “young studs” on the right want very much to take the issues you mention back to 50’s era law.

    But, here is another reason I would perhaps promote term limits: to encourage more women in the political arena – whether local, state or federal, could be more possible with seats opening up more often.
    Presently we have: Women currently hold 18% (78) of the seats in the 113th Congress. Senate – women hold 20% (20) of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate. House – women hold 17.9% (78) of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. (see link for other ratios on state and municipal statistics.)………..

    Not to belabor the fact but : The number of females in the U.S. as of December 2013. The number of males was 156.1 million.

    Not well represented as yet, we women. Openings for seats, with specified terms, could possibly encourage women to take a more active role in government.


  8. solodm says:

    Sorry I cut off the number of women listed in the census report :161 million


  9. Anne says:

    I believe we could do better with 435 names picked at random out of the phone book.


  10. whungerford says:

    Anne, you may be right and that has been proposed not for the Federal Legislature but for state Constitutional Conventions. The problem with trying to amend state constitutions in NY and other states is to keep parties, politicians, and special interests out of the process. It is also the method used to select jurors. One advantage is that it should lead to fair representation of women and minorities.


  11. BOB McGILL says:

    The problem with your way of thinking, all of you, is that you are trying to FIX something that doesn’t work anymore. Our system of government doesn’t work now and won’t work in the future. we need to come up with something else !


  12. whungerford says:

    According to an article by Jon Campbell in today’s Gannett papers, GOP candidate for NYS Gov., Rob Astorino, says he will enact term limits for state officials and legislators if elected. Of course this is nonsense; the most the Governor can do is to ask the legislature to do that.


  13. Deb Meeker says:

    You may have something there Bob. Socialism in some European and Scandinavian countries has proven much more satisfying to the majorities who live there. Their tax contributions afford full expenses for education, healthcare, working parent childcare, and most other issues Americans go broke trying to pay for.


  14. Robert Kriegar says:

    Contrarily, I think that Fagins’ assertion does add to the discussion, and it is a fact. And I dispute the assertion that term limits are solely promoted by those who are dissatisfied with their representation, or that they fail to realize anything. This discussion does not take into account money-entrenched incumbents, nor many other undesirable practices in the process-such as Gerrymandering, as has been mentioned. And, in fact, I suggest that picking names out of the phone book really WOULD provide better offerings. Lack of voter involvement is mentioned-but not lack of quality offerings for candidacy. The two go hand in hand. Much less a total lack of faith in the entire process, and those who make a career out of being in that line of occupation. Self promotion is key to the narcissist, and the professional politician alike. And they have but one goal-looking out for #1. Term limits restore damage done to the Constitution of the United States of America long ago, immediately following Roosevelt. So tell me now-how do these arguments look, stacked up next to that coup against the executive branch? How does the shift in the balance of the three powers look? Why can we not elect a President for how many terms we wish, as free American voters? At this point in time, your argument looks one sided, to me, and does not work forward, and backward, like a math equation.


  15. josephurban says:

    Robert. You make some good points. I oppose term limits for the following reasons.
    1. In a democracy people should be allowed to vote for whomever they choose, even octogenarians who have never emailed.
    2. It takes a few years to learn any job. And it takes years to build working relationships between people. Personal relationships are important in politics. The need to compromise is essential and the longer people work together the more likely they are to see the other’s point of view. One problem with gridlock today in DC is the influx of young ideologues who seem unable to see another’s point of view.
    3. While incumbents have a advantage, based on their ability to raise money, they also have a record. A Congressman has to vote on issues. It is only by their votes that we really know how they will govern. If we don’t like their record we can vote them out.
    4. The influx of money, combined with term limits, would lead to a government almost completely run by big money interests. There are plenty of candidates who would win , based on massive spending, who have no record. In addition, they would, by the very nature of term limits, have no reason to consider the long term effects of their votes.
    5. Congress would become a place for a short term job. Now, what happens after you leave ? I suggest that Congress would be even more likely to ant to pass laws favorable to the financial elites. Why ? Because that is where their next job is going to take them. With no hope for re-election, they would be more likely to be concerned with their own short term economic interests.
    So, for these reasons I oppose term limits. The problem is not term limits, The problem is an easily lead and distracted voting population. That cannot be legislated away. Only a free press, doing it’s job. will solve that. And the “free press” seems more interested in Kim Kardashian’s undergarments than on the subtleties of the Iran nuke negotiations or the Voting Rights Act, etc.


  16. Robert Kriegar says:

    Thank you very much for your informative reply. How then, do we consider term limits on the office of the Presidency, in light of your arguments? I forward that you have just successfully argued for their removal. How do you feel now, after the words of the letter that conservative congressmen put forth in their latest move to undermine the president in his current negotiations with a foreign power?

    I was highly insulted by the position that congress took, that we are saddled with them for life, while the president is a nobody, who will come, and who will go.


  17. Pingback: Term Limits | New NY 23rd

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