The executive director of U.S. Term Limits said his organization has yet to find a ballot measure anywhere in America this year “more unethical” than Referendum One in Memphis.
The referendum, should Memphis voters pass it, would limit city council members to three terms.
But there’s something city officials aren’t telling voters, said U.S. Term Limits Executive Director Nick Tomboulides, when asked about an email City Council Chair Berlin Boyd recently sent out to voters using a .gov email address.
“Chairman Boyd and others know voters would never knowingly demolish term limits. They have misleadingly framed this as a pro-term limits measure,” Tomboulides told The Tennessee Star in an email.
“The ballot language only tells voters they’d be implementing term limits; not that a two-term limit already exists and is being lengthened to three terms.”
U.S. Term Limits is based out of Washington, D.C. and advocates for term limits at all levels of government, according to its website.
The premise of the Memphis measure, Tomboulides went on to say, is bad enough because it disregards the wishes of 75 percent of city voters who passed those two-term limit restrictions eight years ago.
“If Memphis politicians believe they need more time to learn their jobs than the leader of the free world, who also has an eight-year term limit, then frankly they ought to resign,” Tomboulides said.
“They are in the wrong profession if they still don’t understand the job eight years later.”
In an emailed letter to constituents last week, Boyd told voters a two-term only system “constricts the amount of work that council members can do for their represented areas.”
“By extending the term limit to three consecutive terms, council members have more time to work on behalf of their constituents and to see the fruits of items they have proposed. Thus, council members are just beginning to legislate effectively,” Boyd wrote.
“The third term would be used to finish business and set up the next generation of council members. Vote ‘YES’ to referendum number one to ensure the council is able to effectively work for you.”
Boyd did not return The Star’s request for comment this week.
For Tomboulides, the email, especially using a .gov address, is problematic.
“Add in the fact that councilors are using taxpayer dollars to encourage a YES vote and give themselves more power, and you have the perfect storm of self-serving behavior,” Tomboulides wrote.
“We encourage the citizens of Memphis to protect term limits by saying NO to this measure. We also believe a lawsuit is justified to protect voters from the fraudulent language.”
According to Memphis television affiliate WMC 5, voters will decide on Nov. 6 on the new term limits measure for the Memphis mayor and city council members.
Currently, the law limits Memphis city leaders to two four-year terms, the station added.
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