Voters stung by talk of a spring training baseball stadium in their backyard raced to approve term limits three years ago, but a contentious debate over how long elected officials should be allowed to serve rages on.
Eric Jablin, a former mayor and 26-year councilman ousted by term limits this year, gave a supporters of the original term limits a lengthy tirade during Thursday night’s city council meeting. He had used up his 3 minutes to speak, and they shouted to him to sit down.
“I have earned this privilege, and if you don’t like it, you can leave,” he said with a raised voice.
Some residents left. He continued his rant for another 4 1/2 minutes.
He argued that it doesn’t take term limits to get new people involved in city politics and criticized the current term limits as poorly crafted and open to misinterpretation.
Sid Dinerstein, who was not at the meeting, said the city “helped (Jablin) far more than he helped us.” Jablin misled the public about the baseball negotiations and collected a salary for close to 30 years, Dinerstein claims.
Jablin said he’s proud of his 26 years in office during “some of the most challenging issues of growth,” but has no aspirations to return to the council.
“Let me speak plainly: I do not have any plans to run again for the city council,” Jablin said.
Term limits forced him from office this year, along with Marcie Tinsley and Bert Premuroso.
A group of residents appointed by the council has recommended changing term limits to allow officials to serve three three-year terms and run again after they’ve sat out a term. Term limits that voters approved in November 2014 state no City Council member may serve more than two consecutive, three-year terms.
At last month’s meeting, supporters of the Palm Beach Gardens Needs Term Limits committee wore stickers of expired parking meters printed with the words “two-term limit” and “Don’t touch my term limits. Leave it alone!!”
On Thursday, business leaders and residents urged council to advance the recommendation for three three-term limits. It wasn’t up for a vote.
“We feel that continuity, that mentoring, that bringing forward the city together is important,” said Steve Mathison, a real estate attorney and the PGA Corridor Association economic development chair. “We’re here for you. We will be here for you in the future.”
David Markarian, a business and corporate attorney, said short term limits force elected officials to rely heavily on staffers without developing their own expertise. Business people want continuity, he said.
“They want to know that they can go to a community, and rely on the political climate, and there’s not going to be crazy people throwing darts at them, and they can invest,” Markarian said.
Dinerstein noted the president only gets eight years to learn the job, and many states — including Florida — force the governor to leave office after two consecutive, four-year terms. Unlike any other state, Virginia requires the governor to step down after one term.
The decision on Palm Beach Gardens term limits will ultimately rest with voters. Officials have discussed putting the measure to voters in the March election, when there are no seats up for grabs.
City Attorney Max Lohman has said Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher won’t allow municipal questions on the ballot in November and doesn’t like to take them in August because it adds too many pages.
Palm Beach Gardens issue elections are to be held in conjunction with a regular state, county or city election whenever possible, except as otherwise allowed by state law or City Charter, according to the city code.