Local council to petition leaders for term limits
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
November 28, 2012 12:00 AM | 1206 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — The Woodstock City Council passed resolutions Monday to ask state legislators to introduce local legislation to put term limits in place for city officials and to allow city court to handle traffic tickets given out on Interstate 575, but the plans may not make it into law.

Neither resolution passed the council unanimously and City Manager Jeff Moon expressed concern that could kill the proposals.

Historically, the Cherokee County delegation has only considered matters that are unanimously approved by local governing bodies.

Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton) confirmed Tuesday that it’s unlikely either of the measures will be considered, saying state law prohibits bringing forth any measure that isn’t unanimously approved.

“The state law is that if we do make an exception, state law defaults to where it has to be unanimous,” Hill said.

Hill said all matters taken to the General Assembly must also require a signature from the mayor.

“The main reason for that is the Legislature should not get in the middle of a local battle of any sort,” Hill said. “That way it would not insert itself into the politics of a city or a county. Our intention is if everybody wants to do it, we move it into state law. It does keep our nose out of the city’s business, so to speak. We should not be telling a city how to run itself.”

Woodstock City Attorney Eldon Basham said Tuesday he wasn’t aware of the state law but always understood the unanimous vote requirement as the policy of the local delegation.

The first resolution requests the local legislators consider putting four consecutive four-year term limits for the mayor and council and passed Monday night 4-1 with council member Liz Baxter opposed. Council member Randy Brewer was absent.

The resolution calls for an amendment to the city’s charter and includes a provision to allow an elected official who has reached the term limit to run in a special election if no other candidate qualifies during regular qualifying.

The plan would also prevent a mayor or council member from serving as mayor then council member or vice versa if the elected official’s combined years of service would amount to four terms.

Both council members Bud Leonard and Chris Casdia said they were strongly in favor or the measure, with Casdia advocating further restrictions.

“I disagree with four terms. I think that’s too long,” Casdia said, adding he hopes governing bodies nationwide follow the city’s lead.

Baxter did not comment.

Later, a second resolution split the council even further.

Approved 4-2 with Baxter and Casdia opposing, the resolution calls for legislation to allow all traffic tickets written on Interstate 575 within Woodstock’s city limits to be heard in the city’s municipal court rather than state court.

Mayor Donnie Henriques said the city has had jurisdiction over the area “for some time.”

Council member Bob Mueller asked if the change would take away uniform patrol officers from other duties.

“In terms of that detracting from patrols citywide, the answer would be no,” said Police Chief Calvin Moss, adding his department is responsible for some limited traffic enforcement on the interstate, not including speeding tickets.

Council member Tessa Basford asked whether officers had to travel to Canton to appear in court for traffic violations and Moss said yes.

“So it reduces their time, I’m assuming, if we use our own court system,” Basford said.

Both Moss and Moon expressed their favor for the resolution to the council.

The delegation meeting will be Dec. 6 at the Cherokee County Administration Building and every authority and elected board throughout the county is invited to meet with legislators to present items to be considered for the 2013 General Assembly.

Casdia said he was in favor of waiting until the council’s retreat early next year to have more time to consider the measure.

“It would (not) be (approved until) the 2014 legislative session if you took that route,” Moon said.

Casdia expressed concern the resolution was adopted to the agenda that evening and had further questions on the matter he wanted to address at the retreat.

But Mueller said Casdia should go ahead and ask his questions.

To him, the issue was simple: “Why give somebody else the money when we are doing the job?” he asked.

The city of Ball Ground had a similar measure approved by the Legislature during its 2012 session that became effective July 1.

“When we originally annexed 575, one of the stipulations was that our municipal court had no jurisdiction,” City Manager Eric Wilmarth said. “In the past year, after simply looking at other areas, we realized that was not the case in most other cities.”

Wilmarth said Ball Ground City Council unanimously approved a resolution to allow all tickets written by the Georgia State Patrol within city limits on I-575 to be heard in the city’s municipal court.

Wilmarth said the court has heard about five traffic offenses in the last six months and the move was not a “revenue generator” for the city.

“For us, it was just a matter of our court having the same authority as every other municipal court in the state,” Wilmarth said.
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