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Four-Year Terms Should Be Approved By Voters, City Council Committee Says

Charlotte City Council members are weighing four-year terms.

The Charlotte City Council's Budget and Effectiveness Committee said Tuesday morning that any switch to four-year terms should be approved by voters in a referendum.

Council members today have two-year terms, but a number of council members believe that is too short. They have said they have little time to work on issues before having to run for re-election.

If Charlotte moved to four-year terms, it would join other North Carolina cities like Asheville, Cary, Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Much of Tuesday's debate focused on how the process towards longer terms should move forward.

Council members could make the change themselves, without approval from the General Assembly in Raleigh. Or they could place it on the ballot and ask voters to approve the longer terms.

But if council members made the change themselves, a citizen could force the city to place it on the ballot by collecting 5,000 signatures. In a city as large as Charlotte, the city has said that would not be difficult.

Any change would have to be approved by the full council.

The committee also approved having staggered terms if the council switches to four-year terms. One possibility would be for the mayor and at-large members to be elected in one election cycle, with district representatives up for re-election two years after that.

Dimple Ajmera
City council member Dimple Ajmera supports four-year terms for council members. She also voted in favor of having voters decide the issue in a referendum.

In the committee, Democratic council members Dimple Ajmera, LaWana Mayfield and Greg Phipps supported the longer terms, while Republicans Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari were against the switch.

Ajmera and Phipps joined Driggs and Bokhari in supporting a referendum to decide the issue. A referendum on four-year terms would be held in November 2019.

Mecklenburg Commissioners asked voters to approve four-year terms in 2015. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that idea.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.