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Term Limits Proposed For Baltimore County Council Members

Lauren Watley, Baltimore County Government

A Baltimore County Councilman is proposing a three-term limit for council members. Democratic Councilman Tom Quirk, who will not run for a fourth term next year, said this week that being on the county council is not supposed to be a career.

Quirk said it’s too easy for incumbent council members to get reelected because they have connections and can raise money.

“I think it’s important to have new people come into office with fresh ideas and new energy,” Quirk said.

Quirk’s proposal requires amending the county’s charter, so voters would have to approve it. He needs at least five votes on the seven-member council to put it on the November 2022 ballot. It would take effect four years later.

Getting the five votes he needs could be a challenge. Two council members already say they oppose it.

“I think this type of legislation is insulting to the citizens,” Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, said. “It takes choices away from the citizens.”

Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said she strongly believes voters should be able to choose whom to reelect.

“If you’re not happy with them, don’t vote for them,” Bevins said. “Show up and don’t vote for them.”

Democratic Councilman Izzy Patoka said he “conceptually” supports term limits.

“I think bringing new energy into a governing body is healthy for the governing body,” Patoka said. “I am interested in hearing the testimony at our work session to see what the sentiment is with the general public.”

That work session is scheduled for February 23.

In 2012, Quirk voted against a proposal from Republican Councilman David Marks that would have established term limits.

Marks, in a statement, said he has consistently supported giving the voters the chance to decide the issue.

“That was the bill killed by Councilman Quirk and the Democrats in 2012, simply giving the voters the final decision,” Marks said.

“My views have changed the longer I’ve been in office,” Quirk said in a text. “I think this job becomes more and more an ‘insider type’ situation the longer you are in it.”

Republican Councilman Todd Crandell supports the legislation. Fellow Republican Wade Kach did not respond to a request for comment.

Term limits are a mixed bag across jurisdictions and offices. Maryland’s governors and most county executives in the state are limited to two terms. State legislators and members of Congress can run as often as they like. Members of the Baltimore City Council do not have term limits, while in Howard County, they are held to three terms.

Bevins said she understands why the governor and county executive are limited to two terms because that is one person in power, as opposed to members of a governing body.

Bevins points to members of Congress she believes are doing a good job like Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Ben Cardin, who have been able to serve multiple terms.

“Why would I want to roll the dice, not have them run again, roll the dice pot-luck with what comes in next,” said Bevins.

Quirk, who represents Baltimore County’s 1st District, which includes Catonsville and Arbutus, said “it’s time” for him to step aside.

“Politics is supposed to be public service,” Quirk said. “Everybody does their turn and other people step forward.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2