Charlotte City Council on Monday decided to put off for at least a month a discussion over whether to push for four-year terms.
The potentially divisive topic had been scheduled to be discussed at the City Council’s monthly strategy session. But at about 8:15 p.m., the council decided to instead take up the matter at their January meeting.
City Council’s Budget & Effectiveness Committee endorsed four-year terms in a 3-2, party line vote, with Republicans Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari voting “no.” But the committee also recommended letting voters decide via referendum, instead of simply voting to approve it themselves, which the council could do.
If City Council were to vote to approve a switch to four-year terms themselves, however, there’s a hitch: All it would take is 5,000 signatures from voters to force a 2019 referendum anyway.
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And a referendum might face major challenges. The idea of extending council members’ terms has not been popular with voters.
In a 2015 referendum, voters rejected four-year terms for Mecklenburg County commissioners by a nearly 2-1 margin. A similar measure was rejected in Fayetteville this year, by a similar margin.
A majority of council members have said they think four-year terms, possibly staggered, would be a good idea. They say that would keep council members from having to run every other year for reelection, thus allowing them more time to learn the issues and make smarter decisions. Staggered terms would prevent mass turnover.
Many of Charlotte’s peer cities have four-year terms for local elected officials, including Indianapolis; Nashville; Denver. Colo.; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta. But the Texas cities of Fort Worth and Dallas join Raleigh and Durham in having two-year terms (though the Dallas mayor serves for four years).
In North Carolina, many cities and towns have four-year terms, including Asheville, Cary, Greensboro, Wilmington, Gastonia and Winston-Salem.