Mitchell and Lang at Odds Over Proposed Four-Year Mayoral Term
NEW BEDFORD - Mayor Jon Mitchell has been a longtime advocate of lengthening the term for mayor.
A citizens group is working to get the question on the November municipal ballot that, if it passes, would change the two-year mayoral term to a four-year stint. Mitchell says it's about time. "It's a measure that's just so long overdue. The city needs a four-year term," Mitchell says. "I mean, running the City of New Bedford is not like running a lemonade stand."
Mitchell says with a $362 million budget and about 3,000 employees to oversee, two years can put undue pressure on whoever holds the office at the time and forces more short term decisions than long term ones.
Former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang says the proposal out of touch with the voters. "It's appropriate for a mayor to be accountable and accessible, and to stand for election every two years," says Lang. "I think if you're doing a good job, you have very little that you have to do in the way of going out and campaigning that would interrupt your ability to serve as mayor."
To that end, Mayor Mitchell says he would support a recall initiative as an accountability measure.
"I think that's something that the City Council could pass later on just to make sure that there's at least a fall back in case you get somebody in who's engaged in some very bad behavior and you have to get him out."
However, Lang apparently had a different view twelve years ago when he spoke in favor of a four-year term. In a Standard Times article from 2005, Lang is quoted as saying, "“The campaign process and the fundraising process could certainly get in the way of any mayor keeping their eye on the ball and doing the things that need to be done.”
Lang now calls the proposal by New Bedford Fourward ill-founded, and believes it will further marginalize the already consistent low voter turnout in the city. Lang says the voters should be able to have their say every two years.
"The idea of a four-year term leads, I think, to an isolated type of mayor's office, number one. And number two, more importantly, it takes away the voter's ability to impact the government, and that's not right."
If the question makes it to the ballot and passes, it would go into effect after the 2019 election, with the winner of this year's mayoral race still serving a two-year term.