Everyone wants term limits, but how do you pass them when those already in power fight against it?
My friend, 28 year old Zack Maxwell, with a LOT of help from my other friend, Faith Bussey, beat the odds, with a long, hard, and well planned out and executed fight, and won in Arlington Texas.
Zack Maxwell put together a diverse group of local citizens and fought an uphill battle against the city’s establishment politicians.
The story made it to an article in The Philadelphia Citizen about fighting for city council term limits in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
I could not have told the story any better, so I provide most of it for you here. (At the end, click the link and continue and read the whole piece by Larry Platt. It is a great piece!)
“Maxwell publishes the Arlington Voice, an online newspaper he founded in order to compete with the Star-Telegram, which he saw as part of his town’s insider culture problem. “They get $100,000 a year from City Hall to publish legal notices,” he said when I caught up with him earlier this week. “How can you expect them to cover government fairly when they’re getting a big check from it?”
Maxwell says his newspaper practices traditionally objective journalism, but he makes no bones about his politically right-leaning ways. “I think Trump is basically doing a good job,” he says. Like much of Trump’s base—if not Trump himself—he’s incensed by what he sees as the insider sweetheart dealing of politics as usual.
And, like Trump, he infused his campaign for term limits with colorful nicknames for those he sees as duplicitous in public life. He calls his town’s mayor, Jeff Williams, “Mayor McCheese” or “Jeffy The Dream Weaver,” as in: “Mayor McCheese has given our tax dollars away to all his friends,” citing a mayoral commission on transportation that, he says, was designed to get a favored result for the mayor’s cronies, and $500 million in taxpayer funds for the new ballpark of the Texas Rangers.
Of course, local politics being local politics, it’s difficult to discern from the outside if Maxwell’s complaints are right or if they themselves are spin. But what is undeniable is that plenty of others found his case to be persuasive, because Zack Maxwell jump-started a movement of citizens that upended Arlington’s political same-old, same-old.
In 10 weeks, Maxwell’s rag tag army of citizens knocked on doors and collected some 12,000 signatures to get term limits on last November’s ballot. “And not just term limits, extreme term limits,” Maxwell says. “Three two-year terms for Council. Six years—max—for Council and Mayor. And none of this serve for six years and take a year off and come back and run again. Sorry, we’ve had crappy Councils and Mayors taking us to the cleaners for years. If you weren’t a big donor, you were disenfranchised.”
Which is why Maxwell was able to build such an ideologically diverse coalition. “I’m to the right, but we had progressive groups,” he says. “We had the NAACP and the police and firefighter associations. Everybody had been disenfranchised in their own way. Everyone was saying ‘enough is enough’ at the same time.”
What followed was the stuff of high drama. Maxwell relied on Texas’ Initiative & Recall Referendum provision in its state constitution to get his term limit proposition on the ballot; Texas is one of 27 states with such a provision. Mayor Williams and Council responded by putting forth their own, significantly watered-down, term limit proposition. Maxwell suspected that the goal behind the dueling referendum items was to confuse the electorate and depress the vote for change. He says the city hired two $500 an hour outside attorneys to battle him in the ensuing court case and spent in excess of $300,000.
The court found for Maxwell, but Council nonetheless suspended its own rules and called an emergency session—Maxwell suspected its purpose was to try and ram through the second, red herring ballot initiative—and Maxwell’s team, he says, filled up City Hall with “a crowd that was just short of holding pitchforks and torches.” That show of populist power, he says, resulted in Council backing down.
On election day, over 60 percent of Arlington’s voters pulled the lever for the only term limit option on the ballot—Maxwell’s. The result? Come May, three members of Council will be out of office.” READ THE REST AT The Philadelphia Citizen!
The war is not over. An Arlington resident has filed a lawsuit, seeking to toss out the term election results. A state district judge heard arguments this week claiming that the Arlington City Council term limits proposition, which voters overwhelmingly approved, could have unintended consequences on two of the city’s incumbent City Council members.
Judge John Neill will make a ruling on the merits on the case by Feb. 11. I am firmly convinced that Zack and Faith will win this battle too!
Texas is fortunate to have both Zack Maxwell and Faith Bussey. They have been active in local and state politics for years. Follow the Arlington Voice page as well as the public Zack Maxwell page on FB to keep up with his work.