Chicago mayoral term limits small step closer to reality
A group led by former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is one step closer to getting a binding referendum question on the November ballot that would place term limits on the mayor of Chicago.
Chicago voters are inching closer to imposing term limits on the city’s mayor.
The Chicago Board of Elections ruled Aug. 30 that the group Take Charge Chicago – led by former Gov. Pat Quinn – had collected enough valid signatures to get a binding referendum for Chicago mayoral term limits on the November ballot. The referendum, if successful, would limit the mayor to two four-year terms and create an elected city “consumer advocate.”
The referendum effort is likely to face legal challenges from opponents down the road, but it’d be difficult to argue that Chicagoans – and Illinoisans generally – don’t desire term limits.
Of the 10 biggest cities in the U.S., all but Chicago have some form of term limits. And according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Illinois is one of just 14 states with no form of term limits for state lawmakers and the following executive branch offices: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor general and comptroller. Meanwhile, a 2012 Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll found nearly 80 percent of registered Illinois voters favor term limits for state lawmakers.
A lack of term limits combined with partisan political mapmaking leave too few checks on Illinois’ political leadership. At the state level, this is evidenced by the longest-serving House speaker in modern U.S. history and a Senate president who has been in Springfield for nearly four decades. In Chicago, meanwhile, voters have had only two mayors for nearly 30 years.
The result of Quinn’s court battle may hinge on whether the three nonbinding referendum questions Chicago City Council has already loaded onto the November ballot effectively crowd out the possibility for another.
Chicago voters will have the option to answer nonbinding referendum questions this November regarding the city’s adoption of a supposed plastic straw ban; whether future tax revenue from the sale of marijuana should be dedicated to Chicago Public Schools and mental health services, in the event of legalization; and whether the city should support a statewide effort to offer a new property tax exemption for longtime, low-income homeowners.