Of course it's bagels to donuts comparing Boston's mayorship with Kennedy's role. Yet, that is a powerful argument that proponents of local term limits need to confront directly.
Similarly, at-large Councilor Steve Murphy argued against term limits for his body. He cited the instutional memory he drew on as a new councilor a dozen years ago when he first joined.
The anti-limits folk also offer easiily dismissable and even silly arguments. The worst may be the disingenuous one that every municipal election is a term lmit. Doing anything they call artificial or arbitrary really only restricts voter choices and power.
The pro-limits side did and can easily shoot holes in what appears to be self-serving calls to stay in office. We can and do measure the increase in voter participation and candidates running when there are open seats. As Councilor John Connolly noted, the combined power of incumbency, money and influence of special interests actively discourages participation from all angles.
Back to Kennedy…the Senate does not have term limits and is highly unlikely to ask for them. Consider for a moment though what would have happened there and in Massachussets if Ted had faced an 18-year limit.
It is certain that he would not have run off to fill his pockets in the private sector. With his strong drive for public service, his powerful passions and visions for the state and nation, and of course his family money, he would have driven toward his goals in other ways.
Perhaps term-limited Senators with such mindsets would run the term, work in established or new foundations or think tanks for a bit, and then run to return to the Senate. It is easy to see that a model like that might invigorate and re-inspire those like Kennedy. Separating themselves from both the comfort of incumbency and the routine of the position should be a political whetstone for them. Sharper minds, rested emotions and clarified visions…
To the pork issue, if all Senators had an 18-year limit, what would happen to the earmarks, public-works projects and similar goodies that the most senior and best-committeed of them provide for their states? Would that be a crippling loss for the best-connected states or a net gain for the nation in decreasing waste and questionable spending?
I'd love to read you thoughts. I'm still musing.