Riverside voters will have the chance next March to impose term limits on the village’s president and trustees via a referendum question approved by the board of trustees on Oct. 17.

Village President Ben Sells cast the deciding vote in favor of placing a revised referendum question on the March 17, 2020 presidential primary ballot after trustees deadlocked 3-3.

Trustees Elizabeth Peters, Wendell Jisa and Edward Hannon voted in favor, with Cristin Evans, Alex Gallegos and Doug Pollock voting against.

The question that will appear on the ballot will read: “Shall the terms of office for those persons elected to the offices of village president or village trustee in the village of Riverside at the Consolidated Election to be held on April 6, 2021, and at each election for such offices thereafter, be limited such that a person so elected may serve no more than three (3) consecutive full four (4) year terms in the office of village president, and no more than three (3) consecutive full four (4) year terms in the office of village trustee?”

The 4-3 vote on Oct. 17 also effectively repealed an earlier referendum question, approved by the village board in April before Evans, Hannon and Gallegos were sworn in as new trustees.

That question would have also limited village trustees and the president to three consecutive terms. However, that question would have made the law retroactive, meaning President Ben Sells and Trustee Doug Pollock – who are both in their second consecutive terms in their respective offices – would have been limited to just one more term in those positions.

This summer, however, the Illinois General Assembly passed new legislation mandating that any term-limit referendum questions be enacted prospectively.

As a result of that change, both Sells and Pollock, theoretically, would be able to run for three additional consecutive terms in their respective offices – for a total of five. 

Asked whether five consecutive terms in the same job would be appealing, both said it would not.

“I would not consider that,” Sells said, who added that if the referendum passes, he would not seek any more than one more term, if he chose to run again.

“If it passes, it means the residents of the town don’t want anyone serving for more than three terms, and I’d honor the intent of the referendum,” Sells said.

Pollock told the Landmark, “I cannot imagine a scenario where I would serve five consecutive terms as a trustee. My hope would be that other qualified candidates file to run for trustee and that I would step aside after two or three terms.”  

When members of the village board discussed changing the referendum question so that it conformed with the new state law last month, Sells suggested perhaps waiting until the presidential election in November 2020, where voter turnout was sure to be greater than a primary.

If trustees had agreed to do that, they would have had to wait until next month to pass the new question, because referendum questions can’t be approved more than one year in advance.

However, Sells said last week that after giving it a second thought, he didn’t think waiting was necessary.

“I think that we would get more people voting on the question in November than instead of March, but I don’t think we’d get a different outcome, is my hunch,” Sells said. “This primary season I think is probably going to be pretty active, so I think we probably will get a fairly high outpouring of voters in March.”

Riverside voters will have another referendum question on the March 17, 2020 ballot. The Riverside Public Library is placing a question on that ballot, asking voters to approve a $1.5 million bond issue to fund the renovation of the library’s lower level.