Metro Law Director Karl Dean's legal opinion that the two-term limit for elected officials in Nashville does not apply to the Mayor strikes the casual observer as an exercise in overlooking the duck. (See Tennessean
story on the opinion here
; download and read the opinion itself, #05-02, here
.) Here's the precise language of the 1994 Metro Charter amendment that enacted a two-term limit:
...no person shall be eligible to serve in any elected office authorized or created by the Charter of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County if during the previous two (2) terms of that office, the person in question has served more than a single term.
Dean's opinion that this left intact the three-term mayoral limit originally written into the Charter rests on rather technical legal grounds related to how courts resolve conflicts between later, general laws (in this case, the 1994 term limit for all elected offices) and earlier, more specific laws (the term limit for mayor in the original Charter).
Dean also seeks in his opinion to discern the intent of the voters when they passed the 1994 amendment. He concludes that Davidson voters were interested in creating
term limits, and since the office of mayor already had a (three) term limit, it was not their intent to adjust it. But here's the actual language that voters saw when they went to the polls to vote on the term limits amendment:
Should Article 1 of the Metropolitan Charter be amended to limit the person holding any elected office authorized or created by the Metropolitan Charter to two consecutive terms?
Granted, judicial interpretation when laws conflict can be a complex business, but both the amendment wording and the ballot language do seem almost painfully clear.