On Monday, July 9, City Council's Committee on Ethics, Elections, and Council Governance, chaired by Councilman “Brad” Bradford, met at 1:00 PM and voted against moving forward on a budget amendment proposal by Councilman Andrew Burks to extend terms to four years with a lifetime limitation of 3 consecutive terms. The committee received testimony of three well respected Houston experts Dr. Michael Adams of Texas Southern University , Dr. Robert Stein of Rice University , Mr. Robert Lemer, Citizens for Public Accountability, and one public speaker. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan also added some historical perspective on the issue, having been a city councilor when the current term limit charter provision was passed in 1991. Generally, the committee believed that the issue of term limits is important, but polarizing. Current charter calls for 2-year terms with a maximum lifetime limitation of 3 terms. Because of the cost of holding elections the measure could save the city as much as 3 million. Mr. Burks also believed that 4 year terms would attract more talented candidates and give councilors more time to develop expertise on the issues concerning the city. But many felt that the voters would be unlikely to support a change that doubles the time of service of council members, particularly in difficult economic times, while the same council asks for support of important bond measures concerning public transportation, and schools.
Councilman Stephen Costello moved to dispose of the proposal, and after 5 committee members expressed agreement, Mr. Burks stated that he would be willing to accept the direction of the committee.
With the decision on Monday, there matter will not be brought before council for the remainder of this term.
Councilman Burks later expressed disappointment, stating that he believed he had more support based on preliminary discussions with committee members.