Voters asked to remove term limits

Restrictions would be removed from all county offices except for commissioners

Local voters can decide in this election if they want to remove term limits for Moffat County elected officials, excluding the Moffat County commissioners.

Whether to remove term limits for the county offices of clerk and recorder, treasurer, assessor, sheriff and coroner will be listed as five separate questions on the general election ballot.

Tim Jantz, chairman of the Moffat County Republican Party, brought the idea to put the questions on the ballot before the Moffat County commissioners in May.

Jantz did so at the urging of the local Republican Party.

Of the 133 delegates present at the Republican assembly, the resolution was unanimously approved, he said.

One part of the resolution from the assembly read, "Such offices which purposes are to administrate policies rather than create and change policy, would better serve the public if not restricted by term limits."

At the meeting in which Jantz introduced the resolution, the commissioners tabled a decision.

At that time, two local residents, Saed Tayyara and John Ponikvar, started a petition drive to garner local support for placing the question on the ballot.

At a July commissioner's meeting, the two residents brought a petition before the commissioners signed by 471 local residents.

At that meeting, the commissioners approved including the question on the ballot by a 2-1 vote.

Moffat County Commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Les Hampton voted in favor of placing the question on the ballot, while Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson voted against.

While he said he is philosophically in favor of term limits for all offices, Dickinson said at the meeting that he voted against putting the question on the ballot for another reason.

"To say you want to give people a choice for other elected offices but not a choice on the office of county commissioner is hypocritical," he has said. "I won't support a resolution that does not include commissioners."

He countered the argument put forth by Tayyara and Ponikvar that officials can simply be voted out of office if they are not doing their jobs.

"I'm passionate that it's the people that run this county," he said. "Unfortunately, the average voter does not have enough interaction with offices to really know what's going on. Most voters do not take the time that you (Ponikvar and Tayyara) do to be aware of what's going on in county government. The voters need term limits for their protection because they do not have enough interaction with elected officials. I voted for everyone that is in office, but I don't believe that they should have more than two terms."

Ponikvar said Thursday he believed a certain population in Moffat County thinks that good people are having to leave office after eight years, which was evident by the number of people who signed the petition.

"We don't see any reason why good people should be forced out of office," he said. "If they are doing a good job, they should be able to stay. Term limits are already in place with elections every year."

Term limits were implemented throughout Colorado in 1994.

The amendment passed by about a 20,000-vote margin.

Locally, 2,239 people voted in favor of the amendment while 879 voted against it.

In 1996, the question of whether to remove term limits from all elected Moffat County offices was worded on the ballot in one question and

Moffat County commissioners were included.

The question was defeated by a vote of 2,971 to 1,621.

This year, voters will be asked the question of whether to remove term limits for the five offices individually in five different questions.

In a meeting following the decision to put the question on the ballot, the Moffat County commissioners decided to word it as five separate questions.

Raftopoulos, who was skeptical of putting the question on the ballot again after its defeat in 1996, said she thought it would be best to word it as five separate questions.

Ponikvar said Thursday he believed not including the commissioners and wording five separate questions could be the key difference in what the outcome of the question was in 1996.

Because the commissioners were included in the question in 1996 might have been the reason it was defeated, he said.

"The commissioners create policy versus the other positions where people enforce policy laid out by statute," he said. "People don't see these other positions as political positions."

But opinions are mixed on the subject. Tim Christensen, chairman of the Moffat Count Democratic Party, said the local party has not discussed the issue of removing term limits, which originally was brought forward by the opposing Republican Party.

"I can't speak for the entire party, but in my opinion having term limits is a wonderful idea," he said.

Christensen said he thought the statewide decision made to have term limits in 1994 speaks for itself.

"I think what's good enough for the state ought to be good enough for the county," he said.

Since 1994, 49 of the 64 counties in Colorado have either removed or extended term limits on one or more county offices.

In 2000, 21 counties posed term limit questions, while 18 posed questions in 2001.

In addition to Moffat County, three counties have term limit questions on the ballot this year.

Eagle County is asking whether term limits should be removed for all elected officials.

Grand County, which has already removed term limits for all county offices except for commissioners, is asking if they should be removed for the commissioners.

Saguache County is asking voters whether they want to extend term limits for commissioners. In 1998, voters approved extending term limits for all offices except commissioners.

Jantz said the statewide decision trend on term limits is the result of people realizing that there is a limited number of people qualified for elected offices.

"At the local level it is tougher to find people that can get away from their day-to-day lives to run for office," he said.

He said the offices listed on the local ballot are different from many political positions.

"These are career jobs, not political jobs," he said. "It's like getting hired as a supervisor at the power plant and after eight years have them say, 'See ya.'"

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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