A group of city residents are working under a one-month deadline to collect thousands of signatures for a ballot initiative that would limit the number of consecutive terms City Council members can hold.
Headed by Maria Hedges, whose husband, Councilman John Hedges, is serving his first term in office, the days-old group, called Newport Residents to Limit City Council Terms, plans to stake out shopping malls and canvas neighborhoods this weekend to kick off the signature drive.
"I'm getting a lot of calls," said Maria Hedges. "Most people I talk to think it's an important thing because they fear a trend toward career politicians."
Currently, council members may be elected to an unlimited number of four-year terms. The initiative would limit that to two consecutive four-year terms, forcing incumbents to take time off every two terms before they could run again.
To qualify the initiative for the November ballot, the group needs to collect signatures from 15% of the 43,000 registered voters in the city--which means about 6,450 names--by the mid-June deadline.
The group, however, has set a goal of 9,000 signatures because members want to show that the proposal is well received. The initiative would need to win the support of two-thirds of the voters in the November election and would go into effect for the next City Council election.
In November, three council seats, those now held by Councilman John C. Cox Jr., Councilwoman Ruthelyn Plummer and Councilwoman Jean H. Watt, will be up for election. However, none of those council members wold be affected if the proposed change is approved by voters.