By Victoria Espinoza
Term limits could be the law of the future, as one Huntington town councilman is looking to the public for encouragement on drafting legislation for term limits for local offices.
Back in late June, Councilman Gene Cook (R) asked Huntington residents and business owners to let him know their thoughts on term limits for all elected officials in the town. The survey asked if people were in favor of term limits, supported them for all elected officials and if they supported two terms of four years each or three terms of four years each for officials.
By mid-July the results were in and Cook feels positive about moving forward to schedule a public hearing to hear more from the residents on the matter.
“For years I have wanted term limits,” Cook said in a phone interview. “So many people have come up to me on the street and said we should have term limits for everyone. I truly believe in it, and I think it makes for a healthier environment.”
According to Cook’s office, 98.07 percent of the people who responded are in favor of term limits, 86.54 percent supported that term limits include all elected officials, 63.46 percent supported two terms of four years compared to 17.31 percent for three terms of four years each.
Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) after he got the results and said he plans to present a resolution for a public hearing for proposed legislation on term limits scheduled for the September town board meeting.
The proposed legislation would support term limits of two terms of four years each for all elected officials including town supervisor, town council, town clerk, receiver of taxes and superintendent of highways. This legislation also includes if the town board ever wishes to change term limits that it go before a public referendum.
“I feel very strongly about this, that it’s the right thing to do,” Cook said. “In a business world it’s always good to have competition, it should be the same in politics. We can make government better by doing this.”
Petrone, who has served the town for more than 20 years, said he’s going into these discussions with an open mind.
“I objected in the past because drafts didn’t include all elected officials,” he said in a phone interview. “But I believe this may be different. In the past I’ve said if we had term limits it should be all the way up the line to Congress.”
The supervisor said he’ll see if a public hearing is a better vehicle to get information.
Cook said he hopes he can get bipartisan support for this bill and show that real leadership starts at the town level.
He will be sponsoring a resolution to schedule a public hearing in September on term limits at the Aug. 15 town board meeting.
“It is extremely vital for the future of Huntington that the residents and business owners take the time out of their busy day to attend either the August … meeting at 2 p.m., the September … meeting at 7 p.m. or email Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington town clerk to ensure their voices are heard on term limits,” Cook said in a statement. “In the six years that I have served Huntington I have had many conversations with Huntington constituents regarding their thoughts on the need for term limits. This is why I have taken a stance to sponsor legislation this important topic.”