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Boston Rejects Term Limits For Mayor, Councilors01:35
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The Boston City Council narrowly defeated a controversial measure that would have limited the number of terms Boston mayors and councilors can serve. The issue may be off the table for now, but it likely won't go away.

Supporters of the measure said it was not directed at Mayor Thomas Menino, but with a record five terms in office, the mayor looms large in the debate. Councilor Michael Flaherty used his experience running against Menino this fall to argue that incumbents like the mayor have an unfair advantage.

"It's the power of the office. It's name recognition," Flaherty said. "I say that the best candidate doesn't always win."

But many of the councilors disagreed.

"I don't understand why all of a sudden we want to protect the voters from themselves," Councilor Rob Consalvo told the group.

Consalvo said voters "will always make the right decision" and suggested "self-imposed" term limits. "We don't always have to run for reelection," he said.

The councilors debated for hours and eventually defeated the measure in a 7-6 vote. The ordinance would have limited future mayors to serving two four-year terms. Menino would have been allowed to run twice more.

At a public hearing earlier this week, speakers showed overwhelming support for the measure. Most who spoke referred to Menino's long reign as reason enough for term limits.

Some councilors argued it was only fair to impose term limits on themselves, as well. Councilor John Connolly proposed term limits as a way to bring diversity to the majority group, which is overwhelmingly white and male.

"We also want more women and more people from communities of color who are qualified and committed leaders serving in elected office," Connolly said. "I think term limits will bring more diverse and qualified leadership into elected office."

But councilors were even less willing to limit their own ability to run in perpetuity. Many were afraid of losing the institutional knowledge of long-serving members.

Councilor Maureen Feeney — the only woman on the council — made one of the strongest arguments against term limits.

"The best example I could use against term limits is our recently deceased Sen. Ted Kennedy," she said. "What would have been lost if we had imposed term limits on his leadership?"

Councilor John Connolly argued that Kennedy was an anomaly. Connolly will likely be one of the councilors to keep term limits on the table in the future.

Wednesday was the last meeting for Sam Yoon, who proposed the measure, and Michael Flaherty, who championed term limits during his campaign for mayor.

This program aired on December 17, 2009.

Bianca Vázquez Toness Twitter Reporter
Bianca Vázquez Toness was formerly a report for WBUR.

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