Citizens Beat Anti-Term Limit Scam in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Councilman Matt Schellenberg, whose attempt to become a career politician was foiled by citizens.

Last night, the people of Jacksonville proved you can fight City Hall. After a lively discussion, the City Council voted by an 11-6 margin to kill a bill by Councilman Matt Schellenberg that would’ve shattered the city’s term limits and given council members a third term.

That means Jacksonville’s eight-year term limits – which were passed by 82% of city voters in 1991 – will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The Council’s debate on the bill played out like a heavyweight boxing match, with heroes of the people battling cynical politicians. None were more heroic in protecting term limits than Democratic councilmen John Crescimbeni and Tommy Hazouri. Hazouri spoke truth to power when telling his fellow members “No citizens are asking us to do this. Only members of this Council want longer term limits. It is self-serving. We have seen the enemy and it is us.”

All the while, Schellenberg kept claiming that he was doing it for the good of the city and not to give himself a third term. Yeah, right. Hazouri had heard enough, so he called Schellenberg’s bluff with a brilliant maneuver. Hazouri proposed an amendment to the bill that would have made current council members ineligible for the longer term limits. Schellenberg then revealed his self-serving colors by voting against it.

Crescimbeni, a volunteer on the original 1991 campaign, warned his colleagues that there would be political repercussions for anyone who crossed the voters on term limits.

Last week, U.S. Term Limits proudly recognized Crescimbeni, Hazouri and GOP Councilman Greg Anderson with our “Champion of Term Limits” award for their commitments to the people’s law.

Despite the victory, it was never a sure bet that Schellenberg’s scam would fail. This was a culmination of grassroots efforts. When the scam bill was filed, U.S. Term Limits immediately got to work. We mobilized all the citizen-activists we knew in Jacksonville and got them involved. We then began submitting editorials to local newspapers.

We testified before the City Council at the initial hearing and appeared on Ed Dean’s radio program to sound the alarm. Finally, we worked with Pulse Research to conduct a citywide poll on term limits and announced the results. The poll found that 72% of Jacksonville voters prefer eight-year term limits, and 71% of voters believe the members are self-serving for trying to gut the law. That provided the ammunition the favorable Council members needed to defeat the bill.

This story is a testament to the power of committed leaders and activists.
The city of Jacksonville will always be a battleground for term limits. It has a bigger population than five states, with nearly one million people impacted by the decisions this Council makes.

Thanks to the power of the grassroots, those people will live under citizen government for years to come.

Nick Tomboulides is the Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits. 

About Nick Tomboulides