Lehigh Valley

Allentown mayoral term limits bill moves forward

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown City Council moved one step closer to placing a referendum on the November ballot that would ask voters to place term limits on the city's chief executive.

In a special meeting Wednesday night, council voted by common consent to forward the bill for a final vote at its June 7 regular meeting. The legislative body amended the bill by selecting an option that "no person shall be elected to the office of the mayor more than twice. The time served to fill in for the remainder of an unexpired term shall not be deemed a 'term' for the purposes of this limitation."

This would mean two consecutive terms or two separate four-year terms.

The option approved by council mimics the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution with one exception -- the Constitutional Amendment designates that an unexpired term of more than two years would prohibit the president from running for another two terms, whereas the Allentown bill does not make that distinction.

Councilman Julio Guridy said he was "very happy" to see the issue moving closer to passage; Councilman Daryl Hendricks said it was a "timely" measure.

Councilman David McGuire said that should voters grant their approval, "it doesn't affect the current mayor" and that referendum "is not because of one person."

President Ray O'Connell said should council approve the bill as expected at its next meeting, Mayor Ed Pawlowski would have 10 days to either veto it or approve it. If it is the former, then council would have the opportunity to override the veto.

The referendum, if approved by voters, would amend the Home Rule Charter; it was adopted in April 1996 and became effective nine months later. It does not limit the number of terms the mayor may serve.

There would be no grandfathering under the "no limit" provision. It would be effective prior to the new mayoral term beginning in 2018. Therefore Pawlowski could conceivably serve another two terms in addition to the three terms he has already been elected.

On May 16 Pawlowski won the Democratic primary over six challengers; he is seeking a fourth term and will face Republican Nat Hyman in November's general election.

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