Term limits debate heats up

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Sides are lining up for and against the idea of term limiting Grand Rapid’s mayor and city commissioners.

A group calling themselves Protect Your Vote GR said they’ve filed paper work with the Kent County Clerk to establish a committee to fight the ballot initiative, that would restriction Grand Rapids Mayor and City Commissioners from serving more than two, four-year terms.

Mary Alice Williams, one member of Protect Your Vote GR, said she’s living proof that incumbency is not a rubber stamp for re-election to the Grand Rapids City Commission.

Willliams ran a write-in campaign during a commission primary back in the late 70s and after making it to the run-off, she beat the incumbent.

“Running a write-in candidacy is like running a race backwards. But we won, because there were people who were dissatisfied with the incumbent,” said Williams, who served one term and moved on.

“Had I run for re-election, people could have elected to keep me or whether to get rid of me. And I think that’s how the process is meant to work,” said Williams.

Proving, in the minds of opponents, that term limits are not needed at Grand Rapids City Hall.

But the group pushing the measure, G.R .Citizens for Term Limits, thinks they’re a good idea, believing term limits will open up the door to more candidates and bring in fresh ideas.

Both sides are claiming they’re grass roots, with no ulterior motives.

Or are there?

“I feel a little bit like sour grapes,” said Williams, who claims GR Citizens for Municipal Term Limits co-founder Rina Baker is pushing term limits because she has lost runs for city commission and comptroller.

“I don’t want to personalize this, but I think that people have to know who are behind these initiatives,” said Williams.

Baker said she won’t play into that conversation.

“It’s the kind of conversation that gets away from the real issue,” said Baker, adding she’s been a supporter of term limits for years and would have supported them if she had been elected.

Beyond the rhetoric, getting voters to understand the arguments for and against term limits will be a challenge.

In Williams eyes, voters only need to look east to Lansing to find answers.

“Do they want to be disenfranchised with rule that goes into place once and for all and then we’re faced with a situation like we have in Lansing, where people wish that it were different.”

While supporters said the mood of the people they’ve talked to suggests there’s a lot of support for term limits on the local level.

“Let the people decide,” said Baker.

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