How About Term Limits on Police, Firemen?

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

TERM limits for elected officials are being proposed in 45 states. But what if every policeman, every teacher, every firefighter, every government employee were forced to quit public service after eight years?Just such a "term limit" idea is circulating in California as a proposed constitutional amendment. Rachel Dale, an official with Let the People Decide, says the California proposal is one of the most Draconian ballot initiatives anywhere. Eric Harlow, a sponsor of the California amendment, describes it as a "libertarian" concept to get rid of entrenched bureaucrats. "There is entrenchment even within the school system," he says. Mr. Harlow, who comes from Mountain View, Calif., admits his amendment doesn't have a chance in the near term. He and his cosponsor, Robert Lochridge of Redwood City, Calif., have gathered only 2,000 of the 615,957 signatures they need to get it on the next state ballot. "We'll try it again," Harlow says. "It was premature [this year] since the term limits [for state legislators] just went through" in 1990. Mr. Harlow insists their idea makes sense, however. Their long-run goal is to force the government to contract out more services to private enterprise. Private corporations, for example, could be hired to run a community's schools, or run its police force, or patrol the state's highways. Already, many communities hire private companies to collect refuse and garbage, and there are privately run prisons. "Things are more inefficient if the government runs them," Harlow says. "We're working toward the point where government would only be a body which contracts out. [Teachers] could work longer than eight years, but they wouldn't be working for government."

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