Weekly Feature

2018-11-08 / Local News

Supervisor candidate argues for term limits


Jim Lawson is running for town supervisor next year. During Monday’s Town Board meeting, he called for the current board to open a discussion on term limits.

The topic was brought up during the Oct. 22 meeting by resident David Kims. At that time, Supervisor Sheila Meegan said the town has term limits and “they’re called ‘elections.’”

“The only problem with that is, we have a 97 percent incumbency rate with elected officials,” Lawson said. “To call [elections] term limits is disingenuous.”

“You can’t blame that on us,” said Councilman William Hanley.

“And you can’t blame that on the person that’s running for office,” Meegan said.

Lawson said the Town of Amherst has enacted a code on term limits. He questioned why the West Seneca board can’t do the same.

Lawson handed out copies of the Town of Amherst code where term limits are defined.

“Here’s how they do it,” he said.

Amherst’s code states that the purpose of term limits is to expand participation in the electoral process and to bring new ideas to governance of the town.

“I think what we should do, the board could do, is to look at the law as it’s written with the Town of Amherst and just scratch out ‘Amherst’ and put in ‘West Seneca,’” Lawson said.

The supervisor candidate said this would save time and money for the town and that those he has discussed the code with agree the law is appropriate for West Seneca.

“Section 55-3 is where I would make one change, and that change would be ‘consecutive,’” Lawson said.

This section of Amherst’s code reads “No elective public officer of the Town of Amherst shall have more than two consecutive terms of four years each in the same public office.”

“George Washington was the one who brought in term limits when he term limited himself,” he said. “If it’s good enough for George Washington, it’s good enough for FDR, and it’s good enough for Amherst, why can’t it be good enough for the Town of West Seneca?”

Lawson said the Town Board has done a better job of communicating with the public as an open government but there are issues still to iron out.

“What the public looks for is a discussion,” Lawson said. “You have a discussion in front of everyone so they can see where people stand and your rationale, why you feel one way compared to another. I’m looking for an open discussion on term limits. Tonight.”

Hanley said the request was unfair, and Meegan rejected any immediate action on such a measure.

“We could do a public hearing on it, let the public talk about it, change the code. Absolutely. We have one town in the County of Erie that has term limits. Good for them; they did it. But we’re not saying to you, sir, tonight, that we’re going to go ahead and put this on the next public hearing. We’re not. We can think about it, we can talk about it,” Meegan said, adding, “You’re running for supervisor. If you’re lucky enough to win, you can make that happen. But right now, you know what our positions are.”

Lawson questioned the councilmen, stating that he was not aware of their positions on the subject of term limits.

“We all know you’re running for supervisor. When I sit up here, I don’t like being painted into a corner,” Hanley said. “I think Jim Lawson is running for supervisor. By throwing this on the table today you’re trying to eliminate any competition from anybody that’s sitting up here.”

“I favor term limits,” said Councilman Eugene Hart. “But I’m not prepared to go out and talk about it in detail. I see [Amherst’s code] refers to Municipal Home Rule Law Section 10(1)(ii)(a). I’m just looking to see what that said. I’d like to know more about that and more about why, or how, the Town of Amherst went about it.”

Hart said he would be willing to come up with a proposal on term limits and ask for the supervisor to set a public hearing in the future.

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