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Charlotte City Council, mayor move forward with plans to double the length of their terms

Charlotte Council members voting in favor of doubling their term length.
City of Charlotte
Charlotte Council members voting in favor of doubling their term length.

The Charlotte City Council voted Monday night to move toward doubling the length of their terms, from two years to four years.

The next step is a public hearing on March 13. After that, council members could then vote to place the issue on the ballot for voters to decide this fall.

At-large council member Braxton Winston said four-year terms are needed because issues like affordable housing and transit require the undivided attention of elected officials, instead of having to take more breaks every two years to run for reelection.

The council’s plan is that council and mayor terms would be staggered so that only some of them would be on the ballot every two years.

"This is work that continues to get interrupted. This structure, four-year terms, with a stagger, allows for continuity," said Winston.

Winston was one of six council members to vote yes along with Dimple Ajmera, Renee Johnson, LaWana Mayfield, Dante Anderson and Victoria Watlington.

Four voted no: Tariq Bokhari, Ed Driggs, Malcolm Graham and Marjorie Molina.

Bokhari said no resident has ever told him they want longer terms for council.

"Never ever once has that come up. No one has ever said, you know what Tariq, the thing I want is less touchpoints to be able to hold you accountable."

The proposal would also add an eighth district seat to council, bringing the total number of seats to 12, plus the mayor to cast tie-breaking votes.

Charlotte City Council has talked about moving to longer terms for years, but Monday's vote represents the furthest they've gone toward actually advancing the idea. Two years ago, the Citizen Advisory Committee on Governance — which was commissioned by the city — made a number of recommendations as to how Charlotte should change its City Council.

Among them were longer terms, staggered elections and an eighth district seat, as well as higher pay and nonpartisan elections.

Voters will have the final say if the issue ends up on the November ballot, and it's unclear whether they'll approve longer terms. In 2015, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners asked voters to lengthen its terms to four years.

Voters overwhelmingly said no, with 66% of ballots cast opposed and 34% in favor.


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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.