Grand Rapids voters to decide on term limits

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Election Day is now just hours away and voters in Grand Rapids will be deciding whether local politicians will face term limits in the future.

The issue primarily has two groups squaring off, trying to sway the vote.

Unlike much of the language you see on ballots, this one is pretty straight forward – if enacted, a person could serve two four-year terms on the city commission, and two four-year terms as mayor.

The ballot language reads in part:

If this amendment is adopted, no person shall be eligible for election as city commissioner if they have served as city commissioner for two terms, and no person shall be eligible for election as mayor if they have served as mayor for two terms. A person is eligible to serve as city commissioner for two terms and an additional two terms as mayor.

Mary Alice Williams is a grassroots organizer, supporting ‘Protect Your Vote G.R.,’ a group that’s urging folks to vote ‘no’ on the measure.

“It really is nonsense to say there’s no way for fresh blood to come into city hall through the electoral process,” Williams told FOX 17. “What that says to me is people don’t trust the underlying basic democratic principles that we have, which is if you have a good idea, if you’re willing to serve in an elected public position, then prove yourself. Find followers who want to support you and you will get elected.​”

Bonnie Burke and Rina Baker are part of a group supporting term limits.

“We feel that the citizens of Grand Rapids and, in general, the citizens of the country are tired of career politics and we feel that term limits is a way to get fresh faces and fresh ideas into our government,” said Bonnie Baker.

Williams says experience is important.

“It takes a certain amount of time in order to grasp all of the nuances of what being an elected official at the municipal level means,” Williams explained. “People become better teachers or doctors as they dig down and find out the ins and outs of the job.”

“Sometimes less experience is a good thing,” Baker said. “Our term limits proposal is for two terms of eight years. Eight years is a long time for somebody to give their talent and serve.”

So, what happens if the measure is approved?

Mayor George Heartwell, whose current term expires at the end of 2015, would not be eligible to run for re-election.

First Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski and Third Ward Commissioner Elias Lumpkins, Jr. all have terms that expire at the end of 2015. Gutowski and Lumpkins would be ineligible to run for re-election as commissioner, but both would be able to run for mayor.

Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly’s term expires in 2015, as well, but she is eligible to run for another term as commissioner.

First Ward Commissioner Dave Shaffer and Second Ward Commissioner Rosalyn Bliss have terms that expire at the end of 2017. They would not be able to fun for re-election as commissioners, but they could run for mayor, if the proposal is approved.

Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear’s current term expires Dec. 31, 2017. She would be eligible to run for commissioner and or mayor.

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

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