Commission approves item to let residents vote on term limits

During a city commission meeting on Tuesday, elected officials approved an item that will let citizens decide to have term limits on the mayor and city commissioners during the May election.

These recommendations will be considered toward a Charter Amendment Election (Special Election) to coincide with the May 1, 2021, City General Election.

The amendments read: Mayor: A person may not be elected to, or serve on, the city commission as the mayor for more than two four-year terms, and a person who has held the office of mayor for any portion of time of a term to which some other person was elected mayor may not be elected to the office of mayor more than once. A person subject to mayoral term limits will not be prevented from becoming a candidate for city commissioner (either District orAt-Large) and serving if elected, subject to the term limits established for city commissioners in subsection (b).

City Commissioner: A person may not be elected to, or serve on, the city commission as a city commissioner (either District orAt-Large) for more than two four-year terms, and a person who has held a position as a city commissioner for any portion of time of a term to which some other person was elected to the position may not be elected to a position as city commissioner more than once. A person subject to the city commissioner term limits herein will not be prevented from becoming a candidate for mayor and serving if elected, subject to the term limits established for the office of mayor in subsection (a). City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau said she agrees on the term limits but thinks they should not apply to current commissioners. She said if this goes into effect, she will not be able to run again. “I think that’s very unfair to single myself out,” she said. Commissioner Ben Neece said most big cities have term limits such as Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. “The public comments were overwhelmingly in support of this item,” Neece said.

City Commissioner Nurith Galonsly echoed Neece’s sentiment and said the voters of Brownsville should decide if they want term limits.

“Most big cities have term limits and they admit two term limits for both mayor and city commissioner,” she said. “We are not deciding it, we are giving the voters of Brownsville the opportunity to decide if they want term limits. If commissioner Tetreau feels this is a personal vendetta, it really isn’t, it’s more an opportunity to give the citizens of Brownsville an opportunity to get involved in the political process and have their voice heard.”

Michelle Serrano, a Brownsville resident, said during the public comment period she wants the city to be progressive and thinks there should be more checks and balances for elected officials.

“Limiting terms is a good thing,” she said. “It eliminates the perception that there might be ethical violations, and if there are violations, it would happen within a two-term scope and then we could put somebody new.”

Jose Colon-Valles, a Brownsville resident, talked in favor of limiting the terms for mayors and city commissioners. Colon-Valles said term limits will do a lot for political mobility and will allow fresh new voices and fresh new ideas to be involved in the local government.

“City government in Brownsville already has its fair share of barriers for the community,” Colon-Valles said. “Too often people in this community do not feel represented.”

Ofelia Alonso, a Brownsville resident, said she is in favor of the term limits and they should be on the ballot so that Brownsville residents are able to vote on it and decide what suits the community best. “I do think it’s really important that we place term limits in order to not have career politicians that are so out of touch with their community that they no longer represent our best interests,” she said.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com