Cincinnati Voters to Decide on Four-Year Terms

City Council approves ballot measure for non-staggered option

Making cash, spending cash
Making cash, spending cash

Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double the length of their council members' terms.

City Council voted 6-3 on Wednesday to put the ballot initiative before voters. The measure would have all nine members run at the same time, instead of a competing ballot initiative that would have staggered their terms.

“We are the only major city in Ohio that still has two-year terms for its leaders, and the cities that we compete with are also moving to four-year terms, including Louisville and as far as St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver and Atlanta,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who spearheaded the effort.

If approved by voters, the change wouldn’t affect council members serving currently and would go into effect in 2013.

Not every council member was thrilled with the idea.

“I think accountability is paramount, and I don’t see going from two-year terms to four-year terms as increasing the accountability citizens want,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who was one of three new faces to join council in last year's election, which saw four Republican incumbents booted from City Hall.

“I’m sure it’s not lost on my colleagues that last November the electorate was craving change and wanted change, and if we had been in the middle of a four-year cycle they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make that change and a substantial portion of this council … wouldn’t be sitting up here today.”

Sittenfeld equated an election to a job evaluation. He, along with councilmembers Chris Smitherman and Charles Winburn, voted against the ordinance.

Quinlivan has said her rationale for pushing four-year terms would be to eliminate the cycle that currently has sitting council members spending half of their terms campaigning.

Councilman Cecil Thomas said four-year terms would allow council members to focus on longer-term projects as well.

“Four years gives us plenty of time to gel together, to work together,” Thomas said.

Councilman Chris Seelbach attended all four public hearings council held throughout the city and called the number of people who support four-year terms “unbelievable.” Seelbach said he himself was “semi-conflicted” over the proposed changes, but was not conflicted over whether voters should have that choice: He voted in favor.

Mayor Mark Mallory was sure to remind councilmembers before their vote that they are forbidden from using city resources to campaign for a ballot initiative.

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