Ballot Petition Underway for Term Limits for New Bedford City Councilors
NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — A citizen effort is underway to get a binding referendum on this November’s ballot in New Bedford that would call for term limits for city councilors.
Catherine Adamowicz and Paul Hankins are leading the effort to get the question on the ballot. If it does make it on the ballot and is approved by New Bedford voters, city councilors would be limited to four consecutive two-year terms, for a total of eight consecutive years, in office.
Then, after a one-term (or two-year) hiatus, a councilor could then run again.
To make it on the November ballot, the effort needs to collect over 3,000 signatures by September 1.
Adamowicz called into WBSM’s Barry Richard Show on Wednesday, June 21 and announced the ballot question initiative.
“We’re at the point now, we can go out and get signatures,” she said. “Whether someone is for or against term limits, this is just to get the question put on the ballot.”
She then spoke more about it Thursday with WBSM’s Marcus Ferro and Chris McCarthy.
“We just got the official petition from the lawyer,” Adamowicz said, noting it was a municipal lawyer from Taunton so there would be no conflict of interest in New Bedford. “We had to work with the lawyer to make sure the language was right.”
“This lawyer did a thorough search for the Massachusetts area, looked at other cities and towns, and a growing number are doing term limits, and the most successful was four-term limits,” she said.
Adamowicz said the term limits “would not be retroactive,” which means the four-term limit would apply to any councilor elected once it is in place, but not take into account any previous terms toward that limit.
Adamowicz said she was inspired to start the petition to get term limits on the ballot by the city council’s passing of pay adjustments for Unit C city employees that were higher than the requested adjustments by Mayor Jon Mitchell’s administration and which she said her own research proved to be higher than the average salaries for similar positions around the Commonwealth.
“At least six positions, what the city council came up with easily out of whack by $20,000 or more,” she said. “I figured that can’t be true, so I started going to city council meetings and found out yes indeed, it was true, so I became a little more active then and encouraged people to call their city councilors and voice their opinion.”
The pay adjustments were eventually capped at 25 percent after public outcry, with many arguing it was still too high of an increase.
Adamowicz said that attending the council meetings gave her the idea that there needed to be term limits for the council.
“There were a couple of city councilors who were very much controlling of the meeting, and up until recently it seemed to me everyone on the city council, without much discussion if any, went along with those two controlling people,” she said.
She said those “controlling people” had been on the council for 30 years and about 20 years, indicating Councilor at Large Brian Gomes and current Council President Linda Morad.
“This needs to change,” Adamowicz said. “There need to be term limits. I’m, in general, in favor of term limits, anywhere from the local level to the Supreme Court, if we could.”
The first signature gathering was held today at the Buttonwood Park farmer’s market, and the next will take place Friday, June 23 at Shaw’s in New Bedford from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
There is also a Facebook group for the initiative called “YES term limits New Bedford,” where dates and times for future signing events will be posted.
In addition, anyone who wishes to volunteer can call Hankins at (508) 496-0001. Adamowicz stressed that while you do need to be a registered New Bedford voter to sign the petition, anyone can volunteer to assist in the effort to gather signatures.