After years of trying, City Councilman John Odom has finally convinced his colleagues to take a serious look at changing the duration of council terms.
The current two-year format leaves too little time between campaign seasons, Odom says. Elected officials have to raise money and devise political strategies when they ought to be governing the city.
A switch to four-year terms would put Raleigh in line with the Wake County school board and county commission, and towns such as Cary and Holly Springs. In Durham, city council members serve four-year terms, but a mayor is elected every two years. Durham county commissioners serve four-year terms.
Raleigh council members talked at length about the idea and told City Attorney Tom McCormick to draw up a report outlining what’s needed to make a change.
Longer terms would make sense, said Councilman Bonner Gaylord, now in his second term.
“Our current two-year cycle means almost constant campaigning,” Gaylord said. “There is necessarily another set of tasks and to-dos on every councilor’s plate.
“For some, making the right decision can be harder in an election year, just because of the pressure.”
Among the issues that must be resolved: whether and how to stagger terms so that members are not up for re-election at the same time. There’s also concern about the potential for low turnout in elections without a mayor’s race headlining the ballot.
“If you have a race with no mayoral, who’s going to show up?” asked City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin.
At least one option for Raleigh was quickly eliminated: allowing some members to serve four years while keeping others at two.
“We’re not doing that,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.