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Denver voters could consider shorter term limits for elected leaders next year

Council members are exploring a ballot initiative and want citizen input
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Posted at 3:12 PM, Jul 15, 2023

DENVER — Denver City Council members are considering introducing a ballot initiative that would reduce the length of time the city’s elected officials could stay in office.

No resolution has been filed yet. Council members say they’re just in the listening stage.

But they’re curious to see what Denver citizens think.

Denver residents are invited to share their thoughts through an online survey.

Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who represents District 5, said term limits were something she heard voters talking about on the campaign trail.

“People [were] saying 12 years feels too long. Eight years would be better,” said Sawyer, who along with her colleague, Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, is thinking of introducing a ballot initiative.

Sawyer said if they move forward, the initiative would be put on the Nov. 2024 ballot.

“It’s something that I think we really want to take our time with because it is a controversial topic,” said Sawyer.

If approved by voters, it would reduce the maximum time the mayor, city council members, the clerk and recorder, and the city auditor could stay in office from 12 years (three terms) to eight years (two terms).

“I think eight years is probably long enough,” said Sawyer, who will begin her second term on Monday. “If it's good enough for the president of the United States and it's good enough for our governor and our legislature, it's probably good enough for us.”

In 1994, Colorado voters approved an amendment to the state constitution which limited local elected officials to two terms in office.

Denver voters could consider shorter term limits for elected leaders next year

But the amendment also gave local voters the power to change this in their community as they deemed it necessary.

In 2000, Denver voters did just that, approving a measure to allow the city’s elected leaders to serve for three terms or 12 years.

Now, more than 20 years later, Denver voters could decide to go back to the two-term limit.

“There are really good arguments on both sides and so that's why I wanted to hear from the community,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer said she will be chairing a charter review committee during the council’s new term, which begins on Monday.

She said if plans for the ballot initiative move forward, this committee would be tasked with examining all sides of the issue.

Supporters of shorter-term limits generally believe it is a way to hold elected officials more accountable and ensures they don’t become too powerful in one position.

Opponents of shorter-term limits believe the experience an elected leader builds up over time, including becoming an expert on important policy issues, benefits their constituents.

Denver residents have until July 31 to take the survey.

Sawyer says the comments section will be especially important in helping her decide whether to move forward with the ballot initiative.

Sawyer says the shorter term limits would not apply to the elected city officials taking office on Monday, since they ran for office under the current 12-year term limit law.

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