By Barbara Heimlich
Unsuspecting Stratford Residents were bombarded this week with a political mailer attacking 3 of our Board of Education members and characterizing them as “scheming to repeal term limits” and as “career politicians”.
- The Town of Stratford has term limits
- Elected Councilmen for the Town of Stratford shall be limited to serving three two-year consecutive terms
- Elected members of the Planning Commission, Zoning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and the Board of Education shall be limited to one four-year term.
U.S. Term Limits (USTL), is based out of Washington, D.C., advocates for term limits at all levels of government. Since it was established in the early 1990s, USTL has assisted in enacting and defending term limits on state legislatures in 15 states as well as congressional term limits in 23 states.
That said, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton that states may not individually enact term limits for their members of Congress and the term limits never went into effect.
USTL (www.termlimits.com) identifies the following Connecticut Republicans as being supporters of their movement, which in 2019 proposed House Joint Resolution No. 40 to the Government Administration and Elections Committee, which never made it out of committee.
Rep. Tom O’Dea (District 125) is leading the way in Connecticut to term limit the U.S. Congress by cosponsoring a resolution for a national term limits amendment proposal convention. State Representative Thomas O’Dea was reelected to his sixth term in office on November 8, 2022., he serves the 125th Connecticut House District, which includes the communities of New Canaan, Darien, and Stamford. He is the Deputy House Republican Leader for the new legislative term.
Rep. Terrie Wood (R) serves as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, representing Darien and Rowayton, 141st assembly district.
And Rep. Dave Rutigliano (R) from Trumbull, He is the Deputy House Republican Leader and currently the ranking member of the General Law, also support resolution, HJ40 that was filed in the Connecticut General Assembly in 2019. Rutigliano is the owner of the Sitting Duck restaurant in Paradise Green.
Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (District 106), has committed support for term limits on Congress by signing the U.S. Term Limits pledge. State Representative Mitch Bolinsky is serving his sixth term in the Connecticut General Assembly, proudly representing his hometown, Newtown. He is an Assistant Republican Leader and serves on the legislature’s powerful Appropriations Committee, Education Committee, and he is the head House Republican on the Aging Committee. Bolinsky was not listed as a sponsor for HJR 40.
In 2016, USTL launched the Term Limits Convention, a new project to enact a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits. Under this approach, state legislators can enact term limits for the Congress in Washington and no member of Congress can stop them.
Thirty-seven states have some form of term limit on the office of governor. Thirteen states do not. They are: Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Twenty-three states (AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, ID, ME, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NH, NV, ND, OH, OK, OR, SD, UT, WA, and WY) passed federal congressional term limits at the state level before the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton declared the requirement of a constitutional amendment to limit the terms of Congress. These statutes are still on the books; however, they are not enforceable unless the Supreme Court decision is overturned.
Citizen legislatures arising from competitive elections, rotation in office and expanded citizen access to the electoral process.
To enact and defend term limits on elected offices at all levels of government via the ballot box, legislatures and the courts with an ultimate aim of enacting a congressional term limits amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Term limits have been placed on 15 state legislatures, eight of the ten largest cities in America and 36 governors.
“US Term Limits stands up against government malpractice. We are the voice of the American citizen. We want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people- not a ruling class who care more about deals to benefit themselves, than their constituents. We have worked tirelessly with citizens all across the nation, helping them better understand why term limits are a necessary government reform, and how to implement that vision from your town council to Congress.
Editor’s Note: The following is the letter that was sent to Stratford Town Council Members as well as to the Mayor and her staff. The letter was also published in the Stratford Crier Letters To The Editor:
By Andrea Corcoran, Board of Education Chair
Stratford Town Hall 2725 Main Street
Stratford, CT 06615
January 23, 2023
Dear Honorable Members of the Town Council:
We are writing to request your consideration to change the Stratford Term Limit ordinance (Chapter 32, Article 1 of the Town Code) to increase the number of consecutive terms Board of Education members are eligible to serve.
Of the 169 public school districts in the State of Connecticut, Stratford is the only town that limits Board of Education members to serve one single four-year term and be forced to wait four years after completing their term, before being able to run for that office again.
Changing the term limit will position Stratford to create a well-run school board that puts our students’ best interests at the center of the work; one where each school and classroom is a supportive environment for academic and social-emotional learning and funding is allocated equitably and effectively so that all students have equal opportunities no matter which of our thirteen schools they attend.
By changing this restrictive policy, you, as Town leaders, will have the opportunity to create effective board governance by allowing the building of institutional knowledge, thus increasing Stratford Public School’s performance in the State. The Stratford Board of Education will be better positioned to meet the needs of our children and represent the values and hopes of the community, which will subsequently benefit the overall town.
As elected members of the Stratford Board of Education who have been serving for the past three years, we speak from experience. School districts are complex and have many content areas in which board members must become well-versed – from school finance to academic programs and assessments, legislation, state mandates, and other legal matters. The current term limit and staggered terms impede the collective Board from acquiring this knowledge with the depth necessary to operate at its full potential. Every two years, half of the board members are termed out, just as they’ve acquired proficiency in those areas, and Stratford Public Schools loses institutional knowledge and the benefit of mastery.
Relationships are an essential part of this work and as board members, we work to cultivate strong collaborative relationships with each other and build consensus. We build relationships with our legislators and we help them understand our priorities as they work for us in Hartford. We build partnerships with local community organizations, businesses, colleges, universities. and professional organizations, all of which help advance Stratford Public Schools and create opportunities for our children.
Schools are not like other organizations. As a result, continuity is vitally important. Change in education takes time. It takes time to build trust among board members. It takes time to learn and understand the organization. It takes time to learn how to be an effective board member. Increasing Board of Education term limits will hold board members more accountable for the performance of our students and the district while minimizing unnecessary delays to already difficult decisions.
With Stratford’s current structure, Board members rarely have the opportunity to take on leadership roles and mentor other board members, both valuable experiences that enhance the work.
In conclusion, we are requesting that Stratford changes the BOE term limit policy to allow members to run for reelection, without waiting four years after their term ends. This creates an opportunity for effective governance to meet the needs of our children, benefit from the expertise of board members, and carry out the vision and priorities of the district.
Imagine Stratford Public Schools is ranked as one of the top-performing districts in the State of Connecticut, attracting families and businesses and generating economic growth.
You have the power to support the Board of Education and continue the work of rebuilding confidence in our school system and educational leadership.
We appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you soon.
Andrea Corcoran Board Chai