Need for term limits for several county offices in question

North Forty News file photo.

The Larimer county commissioners have approved a referendum which will bring forward the question whether term limits for several offices in the county should be continued.

Some say term limits are no longer necessary because the offices in the county are elected offices anyway. And, they say, it limits the ability to keep a good person in office for more than just two terms.

Others say term limits prevent offices from being in substantial positions of power for too long while thwarting excessive power.

Since the North Forty News does not participate in political opinion, we have chosen to place more in depth content covering both arguments (for and against the term limits) below. We encourage our readers to research every ballot question and make your own informed decisions.

Find the referendum from the county here:
Term-of-Office-Limitations-Larimer-County-Resolution

FOR TERM LIMITS (LETTER FROM SHERIFF JUSTIN SMITH):

Since a group of citizens on Tuesday (September 5, 2017) asked the county commissioners to give voters the opportunity to re-evaluate the current term limits on clerk and recorder, treasurer, sheriff, assessor and surveyor, I’ve had dozens of citizens ask my opinion and perspective on the issue. Rather than answer one by one, it makes more sense to share those thoughts in the local newspaper.

Like all issues, there is not 100% consensus on the issue of term limits, so I certainly continue to respect differing views.

When the term limits amendment was initially approved by Colorado voters in 1994, it passed by just 2% and it gave local voters the opportunity to change those restrictions locally. Since that time, voters in 58 of Colorado’s 64 counties have loosened or abolished those restrictions on their county officials. In Larimer County, the citizens eliminated termlimits on the office of Coroner in 1999 and when asked, chose to raise the eligible terms for the remaining county officeholders in 2005.

One of the most cited reasons for imposing term limits has been that term limits were the only way to replace current office holders. As your current elected sheriff, I am familiar with the history of the elected sheriffs of Larimer County going back nearly 50 years. Interestingly enough, the voters of Larimer County have a history of replacing sitting sheriffs when the voters wanted change. Bob Watson was elected in 1971, but was defeated by Jim Black in 1979. Jim Black was then defeated by Richard Shockley in 1990 and Richard Shockley was defeated by Jim Alderden in 1998- all without term limits.

Since I began serving the citizens of Larimer County as a deputy in 1991, I’ve seen a handful of other office holders defeated at the ballot box, so voters continue to demonstrate that they will exercise choice in who they elect to represent them.

A 2015 survey conducted by the county found that 86% of residents approved of the work that Larimer County government was providing them. I personally have never seen a better team of county officers working together to serve the citizens that elected them. I tend to think you have consistency in your county elected officials because you’ve elected a good slate to serve you.

I fought very hard through a field of 5 sheriff candidates in 2010 to earn the support of Larimer County voters. In 2014, you honored me with a second term in office. I never take re-election for granted.

I do find it ironic that under the current rules, if you re-elect me, the only person you are prohibited from voting for after 2018 would be your current sheriff. Legally, you could vote for an inmate in the jail to be your next sheriff, but you would be prohibited from voting for your sitting sheriff.

There is a lot of other data, facts and background on this issue, but hopefully, I have shared my honest perspective with you.

If the commissioners chose to put the issue on the ballot next week, it only means that they are giving the voters the opportunity to decide whether they want to alter term limits.

AGAINST TERM LIMITS (FROM COLORADO TERM LIMITS PRESS RELEASE):

Fort Collins, Colorado – In an 11th-hour effort, Larimer County Commissioners Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly arranged for three supporters of Sheriff Justin Smith to have unrestricted time to advance the notion of eliminating term limits for the offices of sheriff, treasurer, assessor, surveyor, and clerk and recorder.

With only one scheduled meeting before the September 8 deadline to put the issue on the ballot, the maneuver had all the earmarks of a cleverly orchestrated ambush on the principle of term limits which are overwhelmingly favored by voters and reviled by politicians.

The motivation for the tactic was identified as coming from “supporters” of Larimer Sheriff Justin Smith who advocates gutting term limits for his own benefit. Sheriff Smith was elected precisely because the former Sheriff Jim Alderden was termed out of office in January 2011. With all the power and money granted the office of Sheriff, it is precisely the elected position that NEEDS term limits. The citizens already voted in favor of term limits in order to pass the current limits on the county offices.

“What citizens understand is that term limits thwart excessive power and the arrogance associated with incumbent office holders,” says Bob Berry, Director of Colorado Term Limits. “The citizens have already voted in favor of termlimits. How many times must they defend their position?”

Commissioners Johnson and Donnelly approved the anti-term limits referendum which will appear on the ballot for the general election on Nov. 7thSee the referendum here.

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