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New four-year mayoral term suggested

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

Would you want to see a four-year term for mayor in your city? If the bill passes in Boston that would extend the loan repayment for the city of Springfield, it would also put a question on the ballot in 2009 that would allow city residents to extend the mayor's term to four years beginning in 2011.
If that question is approved, I would imagine other cities would consider making the switch as well. I know that at least one other mayor has expressed private interests in such an alteration.
If you're a new mayor, you spend at least six months of your first year getting your feet wet in the deep end of the pool. Then you have about eight months to hunker down and do the city's work before you have to start up the re-election campaign. Then you have to split your focus between running the city and getting your job back.
If you're an incumbent mayor on your second or third term you've got an edge in that you understand the job already but you still have to run and defend your administration.
The question is whether or not a community is better served by having a four-year mayor who can have greater focus in theory on doing his or her job or by having a two-year trigger that allows voters to make a change? Which is better for the democratic process?
As one political insider noted to me, when there is a two-year term, voters can be assured something will be done on their behalf at least during the election cycle.
Frankly, I'm inclined to say a two-year term is better, although I understand and appreciate the arguments for a four-year term. Somehow, it seems to me a two-year term can provide voters with a greater tool for change and could keep a mayor more responsible.
Of course, that's only if the voters pay attention. We've had some problems in the past in which those who turn up at the polls are folks who haven't questioned the status quo too well. In Springfield, we have paid dearly for the electorate's poor judgment in the 1990s.
The great Ambrose Bierce defined the word "vote" in his "Devil's Dictionary" as "The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country."
***
I love conspiracy theories and I relished the ones floating around last week concerning the Rev. Jesse Jackson. I'm sure they are all nonsense but hear me out.
Jackson was waiting to be interviewed by FOX News and said into his open mic that he was angry that Barack Obama was "talking down to black people" in speeches made at African-American churches.
Obama had been making statements about assuming responsibility.
Then Jackson said he wanted to castrate Obama only in different language.
So here's the conspiracy theory: does anyone think Jackson a man who understands how media works was unaware the camera was rolling and the mic was live? Perhaps he said those statements to provide a means for Obama to distance himself from the left of center Jackson. After all, one of Jackson's sons is a key official in the Obama campaign.
Or could it be that Jackson is such a media hog that he made the statement just so he could look relevant.
Or he's just stupid.
You pick your favorite.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.