Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to BubbleLife in response to a Letter to the Editor published on April 29 titled, "READER OPINION: Grapevine Term Limits a 'Pea Under the Shell' Game."
As a supporter of term limits and one of the people who worked to organize the petition to put the term limits on the ballot, I would like to state my comments regarding a letter to the editor by Mr. Kevin Haislip titled "Grapevine Term Limits a 'Pea Under the Shell' Game," which was posted on April 29 to Grapevine BubbleLife.
The author, Mr. Haislip, is incorrect in suggesting this matter keeps popping up. There is a legal procedure to be followed in order to put an initiative on the ballot to amend a city's charter. This legal procedure is governed by the Texas Constitution, the Texas Local Government Code, the Texas Election Code, and the City of Grapevine's City Charter. As one of the people who worked to put this initiative on the ballot, we had to self-educate on those matters (With limited budget — just our own funds, as we could not afford to hire an attorney. We had to learn such matters of our own effort, by reading the law, the City Charter, going to the law library…etc.).
The procedure requires the number of signatures of voters in Grapevine be equal to 5% of the number of qualified Grapevine voters (a number that is floating and is fixed on the date the petition is submitted for verification). If the number is not met on the date of submission, it is not possible to amend it and one has to start all over again. Also, the Election Code sets a timeline for how long signatures can be gathered; the signature-gathering process is valid six months prior to the date of petition submission. We had to learn all these — rather stringent — constraints, which are spread throughout the City Charter and many different sets of laws and constitutional provisions. Then, we had to navigate through them. It took us some time and some trial-and-error to get it right. The gathering of signatures had been going on for a while, however, the clock started ticking on the date the petition was turned in to city officials for their verification. Also, to get an initiative on a ballot, the verification process must be completed at least 30 days before a scheduled election. However, from the date the petition is filed with city officials for verification, it may (and more often does) take city officials many weeks to complete the verification process and to certify the petition as valid. This timeline caused us to miss the cutoff date for the November 2012 ballot. We missed that cutoff by about 1 week, hence, it was scheduled for the next regularly scheduled election — which is now, in May 2013. We, as the submitters of the petition, could have sought out the City of Grapevine to call a special election just for that petition; however, in our view, that would have been a waste of money, as it costs quite a bit to have a city-wide election. Therefore, instead of having a special election last year, say, by the end of November or in December, we asked to have the term limits initiative on the next regularly scheduled election. The petition had been filed with city officials for verification in September of 2012. Obviously, we managed to successfully pass the verification process and the initiative is on the ballot during this upcoming election.
The author of the article published on Apr. 30 is not accurate. The “19 million visitors” consists mostly of "shoppers" at the Grapevine Mills Mall. I suppose Mr. Haislip will leave Grapevine on the day that our current mayor (and three other long-running council persons) pass on, as life is term-limited for all of us, including me. For we will not be able to find anyone like Mayor and these council folks!
Government is government is government — though it may be at different levels. However, government is government is government: at city level, at county level, at state level, and at national level. What’s good for the geese is good for the goose (or something like that). If term limits are good at the national level, rest assured that they are good at the local level.
I am a supporter of term limits in Grapevine. However, I am not for change just for the sake of a change. Mr. Haislip, please look around Grapevine — Bedford, Southlake, Trophy Club, Lewisville…etc. are all cities just a stone’s throw from Grapevine that do have term limits for their elected city officials. I am not suggesting those places are necessarily better than Grapevine, however, I do not see people leaving those cities by truck-loads, either. Mr. Haislip made no compelling argument. Lower usage fees are all Mr. Haislip is suggesting — fair enough. However, we, as a city, took on bonds in the tune of $100 million over the past five or seven years, some of which will be with us for the next 15 to 30 years. Bond is a debt. So, we are living on a sort of “credit-card,” which has a maturity date and a simple interest, too.
The term limits initiative on the ballot in Grapevine is a limit on the number of consecutive terms a person may hold an office; for as long as it is not three consecutive terms, a person may run forever. I am not for banning anyone from office. I am simply for opening the space. Mr. Haislip, there are some 28,000 qualified voters living in Grapevine (yes, twenty-eight thousand), however, only 1,000 to 2,000 voters come to polls for city-only elections. Why do you suppose there is such large voter apathy in Grapevine? You can verify the number of voters by contacting the Tarrant County Election Administration.
Our City Council has voted to give itself a no-receipt expense account and a health care benefit, which is paid for by the city employees. Our City Charter (the constitution for the City of Grapevine, if you will) expressly prohibits such benefits. It also expressly declares the council members are not city employees. Mr. Haislip may feel this is OK, but I do not. I think those who take an oath to uphold a law or provisions of a founding document should at least read it before taking such an oath (and abiding by their own oath). Clearly, Grapevine’s City Council feels they are above the City Charter — the founding document of our city. There are many other similar matters I can enumerate, but space is limited here.
If Mr. Haislip enjoys living in an amusement park, why not join a circus? Everyone keeps telling me how many visitors come and visit Grapevine. OK, fine, we are not a zoo. We are a publicly held government. Follow the City Charter and applicable laws. If you wish to disregard all that, fine. Buy a big plot of land, make it one gigantic homeowner-type association, and then do nearly whatever you wish within it; it will be a privately run entity and not a publicly run governmental entity. The City of Grapevine advertises itself to be a publicly held governmental entity and not a privately owned and operated entity.
I suggest Mr. Haislip study the difference between lifetime term limits (such as the one for the U.S. presidency) and consecutive term limits (such as the one proposed in Grapevine). In my opinion, the sitting City Council (incidentally, the City Charter states that the term City Council is to mean the mayor, too), some of whom had been at these posts for a few decades, could, in service of the City, retire and form a mentoring club where they could pass their knowledge to a new generation and serve as a knowledge resource. No doubt, I will die, for my life has a limit, as we (including the council members) are all human. Why not pass our knowledge and skills to another generation while we can?
— M. Aram Azadpour, Grapevine Resident