2009-05-14 / Letters to the Editor

Four-year terms not the answer

In response to April 30 Jamestown Press editorial recommending the extension of Town Council terms from two years to four: You argue that four-year terms would result in greater experience and political continuity than two-year terms; but your conclusion - that we should therefore have four-year terms - is unpersuasive.

This is because the fundamental reason for twoyear terms has nothing to do with experience or continuity. Two-year terms enable the public to respond promptly to particular issues

and to particular individuals. They provide a defense against political entrenchment. When contentious

and significant issues arise, and when opinions and circumstances change, the public's representatives should reflect the public's views. That is the essence of democracy.

Two-year terms - especially in small communities like Jamestown - have the further practical advantage of providing greater flexibility for the participants. They encourage well-qualifi ed but hesitant citizens to run for office, better enable existing office-holders to take short breaks when necessary, and provide more frequent opportunity for graceful retirement (there- by requiring fewer occasions for the problems of recall and special elections).

Finally, the extra time is not really needed. Most states (and the U.S. House of Representatives) have at least one legislative body with two-year terms and seem to do perfectly well with it. How do they get by? Perhaps because individuals elected to office tend to be quick studies and because - in the democratic tradition - those enjoying broad and lasting support provide natural continuity. Harry Wright Jamestown

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