Both sides make their case on Pr. George’s term limits.

…  Vote “NO” on Question J.

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Mr. Baker. >>> Read more >>>Major scandal unfolding in PGCPS.  >>>  Rot at Upper Marlboro.

October 24

During the only public forum on Question J — the ballot question that would allow Prince George’s officials to serve three terms instead of two — the measure’s strongest proponent was absent.In his place, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) sent an attorney to square off against opponents of loosening term limits.While those close to Baker know how much he dislikes the term-limit law, Baker has refused to campaign for the ballot initiative — unwilling to attach his name to an effort that would benefit him personally and has failed twice in the past 20 years.Just over a week before the general election, there are no yard signs, robo-calls or e-mails to voters in favor of the referendum from Baker or any of the County Council members who stand to benefit from it.Baker — who is running unopposed for a second term and will be forced to leave office after that if the ballot initiative fails — is relying on the “yes” vote recommended on the sample ballot distributed by the county’s powerful Democratic party central committee.

Meanwhile, activists who want to keep the stricter limits in place are exhorting the electorate to vote “no” through community e-mail discussion groups, public meetings and on the Internet.

“I think people understand where I stand on term limits,” Baker said. “There are term limits, and they are called ‘the voters.’ ”

Baker said proponents of term limits assume voters are not mature enough to make the right selections and argued that forcing politicians out after two terms destroys institutional knowledge and governing momentum.

“This is the most popular council in 30 years with constituents,” Baker said. “People like what they see.”

Opponents of the term-limit extension fear political entrenchment and say the ballot referendum is premature, coming just four years after the federal corruption investigation that toppled Baker’s predecessor, Jack Johnson.

Not one Prince George’s County incumbent has been defeated in the two decades since Judy Robinson and her group collected the 18,000 signatures that instituted term limits in 1992.

Gerron Levi, a former state delegate who lost to sitting council incumbent Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville) in the primary, said the political system can have a corrupting influence on any long-serving elected official. “The longer you are in office, the longer you are captive to moneyed interests, because that’s how you get reelected,” Levi said.

Prince George’s is the only local government in the region to limit how long its local officials can serve (although the Virginia governor can remain in office only four years and the Maryland governor is limited to eight).

County officials say that means more turnover for Prince George’s County than for its neighbors on regional boards that oversee topics such as water, transportation and planning.

“We are constantly being outmaneuvered by Northern Virginia, where that long tenure exists,” said M.H. Jim Estepp, a former county council chair. “There was a lot more I could’ve done for my constituency if I had more time.”

Baker said his vision for the county will take more than two terms to achieve. It took four years to “get used to the job” and craft the details of his agenda, he said, and he doesn’t expect his marquee education revisions and economic development plans to fully take effect until 2015.

>>> Read more Washington Post.

>>> Read more Vote against longer term limits, fewer papers of record in Prince George’s.

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