A controversial proposal to extend term limits for Wichita City Council members could be put to a city-wide vote next year.
The change would allow council members, including the mayor, to serve three four-year terms; they’re currently limited to two.
The council deferred a decision on the matter until at least February to give themselves and residents more time to research the issue — and possibly put the question on a ballot.
“The public’s provided a lot of feedback on the term limits,” Vice Mayor Jeff Blubaugh said Tuesday, “and the message is pretty clear that no decision should be made without a public vote.”
Since it became public late last week, the proposal has received criticism online and people have questioned the ethics of council members essentially voting to keep themselves in office longer.
The change could have an immediate impact on three current council members: Blubaugh won his election for a second term last month; Bryan Frye will also begin his second full term next year, and James Clendenin is halfway through his second full term.
If the question were to go on a ballot, the next regular election is the August 2020 primary.
Blubaugh says the cost of holding a special election sooner would be $100,000.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to endure the expense … just to find out if we want to go forward with term limits or not,” he said.
City Council member Cindy Claycomb says she wants more information about the issue before the council makes a decision.
“I am in favor of term limits,” she said, “but I also think that there’s some research that shows there may not be definitive answers on two or three terms and some of the benefits of term limits or extending term limits.”
The city says Wichita is one of the only major cities in Kansas to enforce term limits. Blubaugh noted that the Sedgwick County Commission isn’t subject to term limits.
“It might be a good opportunity to have the discussion with the county,” he said.
He said Mayor-elect Brandon Whipple should also be involved in the discussion after he is sworn in next month.