REGARDLESS of what the city law director says, Toledo City Councilman Bob McCloskey should give up on the ill-advised attempt to switch from his District 3 post to an at-large seat in the November election.
The voters of Toledo believed they were instituting a strict limit of three four-year terms for members of council when they amended the city charter in 1992 to establish the strong-mayor form of government and provide for district council seats.
Thus it's an affront to the public for Mr. McCloskey to try to extend his stay on council by seizing on the technicality that he has not yet fully served out his third term. This is the kind of legalistic weaselry that drives the average citizen crazy, and we do not believe it would survive a court test either.
Certainly, the opinion of City Law Director Barbara Herring is not the definitive word on the subject. Moreover, it was foolish of city officials to initially deny a Blade reporter access to Ms. Herring's opinion in the McCloskey case on the grounds of attorney-client privilege. This is a matter of public policy that cannot be decided in private.
This newspaper endorsed Mr. McCloskey in three of his campaigns - 1993, 1997, and 2003 - to represent District 3, which includes East Toledo and old South Toledo. Those elections were for four-year terms. The two-year term to which he was elected in 2001 was intended to stagger the terms of district and at-large council members. It specifically did not count toward the three-term limit, further clarifying the intent of voters back in 1992.
It is clear that all members of City Council, whether they represent districts or the city at-large, were created equal under the charter. In neither case is there a difference in their pay or their duties, so there should be no distinction when it comes to the number of terms they may serve.
Term limits were written into the charter to ensure that council members could not become entrenched forever, that opportunities in public service would arise periodically for a continual stream of relatively new faces among elected officials. To allow members to circumvent those limits would be not only bad public policy but also a slap in the face to voters.
There is little doubt that Mr. McCloskey has made a sincere effort to represent his constituents for more than a decade, but he puts at risk the community's good will and ours if he persists with this cynical end-run on the city charter.
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