August 10, 2016

“It’s Bad Public Policy”: How Tom Moore Plans to Defeat Term Limits for Montgomery County Council

By Avery Kleinman

Tom Moore is leading efforts to defeat term limits on Montgomery County council members. He is a former Rockville, Maryland council member and the president-elect of Common Cause Maryland.

Tom Moore is leading efforts to defeat term limits on Montgomery County council members. He is a former Rockville, Maryland council member and the president-elect of Common Cause Maryland.

In early July, outspoken political activist Robin Ficker and Bethesda Beat reporter Aaron Kraut joined the Kojo Show to discuss Ficker’s efforts to impose term limits on Montgomery County’s executive and council members. At the time, Ficker said he had already gathered enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot and up for popular vote come November.

According to the Washington Post, Ficker delivered those signatures to the County Executive’s office on Monday- a total of 18,000. If at least 10,000 of those signatures are valid, voters in Montgomery County will be one step closer to voting on whether their council members should be limited to three terms. The measure would kick out five of the council’s nine members in 2018.

Ficker, a Republican, says term limits have the support of residents on both sides of the aisle. But Democrat Tom Moore, former Rockville council member and president-elect of Common Cause Maryland’s Board, says he opposes term limits in local government and will mobilize a political campaign to defeat the measure. He spoke with us about why and how he plans to do so.

Why do you oppose term limits for Montgomery County Council members?

It’s bad public policy. The effects of term limits are to take power away from elected representatives who are responsible to the people and give them to staff and lobbyists who are not accountable. You lop off the institutional memory of a legislative body which is bad news.

How does your personal experience on the Rockville Council inform your views on this issue?

What’s funny about this one is that this campaign works against my personal interests. I ran against Councilmember Sidney Katz in 2014 for that seat. Sidney had been in Gaithersburg City Hall for 36 years and there’s no reason to think he won’t be in the County Council building for another 36, so it would be in my personal political best interest for him to be forced out of office. But I’m trying to take the larger view and it’s just a bad idea. I think I’m a good person to be leading this effort because it really is against my personal interests for there not to be term limits.

Are you happy with the jobs the current Council is doing? Does that effect your opinion on term limits?

We have a representative democracy and we elect who we think are the best people to go into those jobs and make the best choices. I am very weary of looking at one thing, like hey, they raised taxes 9 percent and they’re doing a bad job because of that. As far as I can tell, what I’ve seen from this council is that they are weighing their choices and doing the best they can under the circumstances.

Tell me about your plans to organize a political committee to defeat the measure.

First, we’re going to look at the petition and the signatures, make sure everything is in order, and if it is, we’re going to do our best to get the word out to people –especially on election day– to make sure they know it’s bad policy and it will take away their choices. I believe the proponents are making assertions about the benefits of term limits that are not supported by the facts and I look forward in the fall campaign to getting the facts out there.

Why do you care enough about this issue to mobilize?

As a private citizen there’s not a lot of policy that you can step directly into, usually something has to go through a council. But when it comes to voter initiatives, one set of voters stands up and wants to do something, and another set stands up and says no. Nobody was standing up to do this and I thought I had the background and skills to win this one.

Are you confident that you will defeat the measure?

This political season has shown, if anything, that nobody knows anything in politics. I am hopeful but I am not going to make any predictions.

Do you have anything to say about the outspoken proponent of term limits, Robin Ficker?

One of my earliest political memories is my parents having a very dim view of Robin Ficker and the things he tried to do. There is little I could do in public life to make my father more proud than to beat Robin Ficker on a matter of important public policy.

The Kojo Nnamdi Show will continue to cover the debate over term limits in Montgomery County, Md. Stay tuned as this story develops!

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