Mount Kisco officials are considering whether to propose propositions that would impose term limits on Village Board members and an age limit for village justices.
Mayor Gina Picinich said last week that she and Trustee Isi Albanese have been advocates of putting the questions to Mount Kisco residents.
She said with two-year terms for trustees and the mayor, either eight or 10-year limits would seem appropriate, although the specifics would be open to a discussion among the board and the community.
“By putting term limits in place that will let folks know if you’re elected to these positions you have a finite time in which to make a contribution and be effective,” Picinich said. “So many positions across this country elected officials have term limits.”
It would also encourage a wider cross-section of residents to get involved in local government, according to the mayor. Many people who may be interested in running are discouraged if they have to challenge an incumbent, Picinich said.
“Having term limits in elected positions makes it easier for others to step forward,” Picinich said. “That’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing.”
Since 2007, there have been few contested races for Village Board seats. When Picinich challenged then-mayor Michael Cindrich in 2017 on an independent line, it marked the only contested mayoral election in the past 12 years. In that same timeframe, there have been only three contested trustee races.
Because all five board members serve two-year terms, with the mayor and two trustees running in odd-numbered years and the other two trustees running in even-numbered years, there is an election every year in Mount Kisco.
Picinich said term limits for the village justices have also been explored but that is something that hasn’t been done across New York State. Instead, officials may consider a separate referendum that would impose an age limit that is consistent with state justices, she said.
New York State requires state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals justices to step down during the year they turn 70 years old.
Two other board members reached last week, Deputy Mayor Jean Farber and Trustee Karen Schleimer, said they were undecided about whether they would support term limits for the Village Board and age limits for the justices.
“I’d like to have a greater understanding of what this really means,” Farber said. “There are no other towns and villages in northern Westchester surrounding us that have term limits. I understand that everyone should have the chance to participate but it’s been my position that it can be hard to find people who are willing to give up so much of their time to become a trustee.”
Schleimer said she hasn’t weighed the issues closely because there are greater priorities currently facing the board. However, she seemed to be skeptical.
“I think there are great things to be said for experience,” Schleimer said.
Picinich said there wasn’t enough time for the full board to discuss the potential propositions for inclusion on this year’s ballot. The change in state law earlier this year pushed up all election-related deadlines, so the cutoff to place a referendum on the ballot for this year’s general election was last Monday, Aug. 5, she said.
The mayor did not say whether the propositions could be offered in 2020 or in 2021 should a board majority agree to that.
“I think the important thing to keep in mind is it’s not the board deciding to make this change, it’s the board saying we’d like to ask the community if you would like to make this change,” Picinich said.
Westchester has 12-year limits for the county executive and county legislators.