By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The term-limited members of the City Council have lost all reason.
They plan to betray the public by disregarding two votes by the people
and overturn term limits so that they may run for office again.
By repealing term limits, some of these self-serving jokers feel that
no matter how small they look, no matter how they violate the public trust, they still
have a chance, however slim, of keeping their coveted jobs.
Without repealing term limits, theyre unemployed and have
"To hell with the people," they say.
Remember their faces. Remember their names: Helen Marshall, John
Sabini, Julia Harrison, Walter McCaffrey, Alfonso Stabile, Juanita Watkins and Tom White.
They are truly enemies of the people.
These seven City Council members from Queens, along with 13 other named
members throughout the city and other silent members, have fired the first shot of what
they hope will be a bloodless coup. They a couple of dozen members plan to
overturn a law passed by referendum in 1993 and upheld by referendum when the Council
brought it back to the people in 1996.
The law limits the number of consecutive terms Councilmembers (and
other City elected officials) can serve. These seven and their compatriots plan to repeal
the part that affects Councilmember terms.
These people are not to be taken lightly. They will sell out the public
for a shot at another two years in the sun. They will lie, and cheat and steal.
One argument they will tell you is "Oh, my district didnt
want term limits!" "The minorities/black districts didnt vote for term
Queens Councilmembers Tom White and Juanita Watkins said their
districts didnt vote for term limits. We checked; Tom and Juanita, your districts
both voted for the term limit referendum. Your claim just aint true.
Borough President wannabe Helen Marshall says the minorities are
against it. Wrong, Helen! In the 1993 referendum 55.45% of the votes cast in the five
black Assembly Districts were for term limits. As a matter of fact every minority
district, every majority district, every district in Queens voted in favor of the
Cheat! We believe that playing the race card when the issue is
self-interest is the greatest deception one could attempt on minority voters. For our
friend Helen Marshall, the black candidate for Borough President, to play the race card in
this case, discredits her, her candidacy and is counterproductive to the best interest of
the people of color in this city.
Sure, sitting minority members of the Council may have to go out and
work next year. But other minority members will replace them. Helen, your minority
district voted for it. So did every other minority district in Queens.
Race is not the issue. The race for Council is!
Steal? Yes, this is clearly a vile theft of the rights of the people.
They have spoken twice.
The term limit bill, Council Bill Int. No. 880, sponsored by these
"magnificent seven," presents their case.
Okay, Ive read it. Theres not much that can be said to
convince me that a referendum voted upon by the people should be thrown out by two or
three dozen councilmembers especially when it directly affects their terms in
office. However, I have read the bill and have tried to identify and present each of the
arguments in favor of the repeal of term limits. The italicized comment after each
argument, just seemed to appear as my fingers magically pressed the keyboard. It
doesnt take great thought to understand the motivation of the people behind this
Their arguments (in quotes) are:
"Voters in up to 35 council districts would be denied the right
to vote for the incumbent members." Good! That was the purpose of the term
limit referendum passed by the people.
"As a result of this scheme, a significant number of senior
members including the Speaker and all committee chairs would be arbitrarily removed from
office at the same time." Scheme? No, this is no scheme, this is the
voters will and intent to get rid of permanent government.
"The impact of this forced exodus falls heavily on
minority voters and the minority communities of the City."
The voters in those "minority" districts also voted in favor of term limits
and will likely again elect new "minority" councilmembers, duh!
"Term limits for legislators would serve no useful purpose since
elections themselves provide the voters with a full opportunity to reject or retain
officeholders." Yeah, it would. The people think so. It would get rid of the
20 jokers who introduced this bill to override the will of the people.
"Term limit provisions would cause the wholesale dumping of the
institutional memory and long-term perspective of the City Council." And
the wholesale dumping of the "institutional corruption" and "special
interest perspective" of the City Council. Thats what the people had in mind.
"The fundamental right of the individual voter cannot and should
not be limited by the will of the majority." Then challenge the law in the
courts; the courts, not the Council, interpret the Constitution.
"The Council finds that term limits for executive branch
elected officials are less offensive to fundamental democratic standards since they serve
a historically recognized purpose in the United States of curbing executive powers."
But these "magnificent seven" wouldnt dream that the people be allowed
to curb their powers.
"Are likely to produce irrational and inappropriate results."
Irrational and inappropriate? You mean, you wont be in office?
"New York Citys highly regarded campaign finance laws, which
provide significant public funds for candidates, level the playing field with respect to
the cost of running for office." Yeah, right!
"This local law shall take effect immediately." So all
of the self-serving hypocrites can run again.
The more I research term limits, the more sense they seem to make. But
the more I watch the desperate actions of the term limited Councilmem-bers, the more I am
pushed to favor term limits and rid government of individuals like these who back this
vile act to overturn the will of the people.
Colorado voters passed a term-limits initiative in 1990, and in 1992
and 1994, voters in over 20 states approved various state and federal term-limit laws.
Some 20-plus states more than 3,000 municipalities have imposed some form of
term limits on their legislators. And not one governmental structure has crumbled. But our
members believe they are indispensable.
Democracy is rooted in a citizen legislature. Perpetuating a permanent
government gives rise to the type of representatives that will unilaterally throw out a
vote of the people.
The main objective of term limits is to guarantee a steady stream of
fresh lawmakers and prevent the rise of career politicians who cater to special interest
groups and contributors, and may grow complacent and lose touch with their constituents.
While City Campaign Finance Regs may reduce the influence of special
interests, incumbent candidates will always have a competitive advantage over insurgents.
Office perks, government-paid staffs, constituent mailings, free media coverage, and the
authority to help constituents with such everyday bureaucratic matters can all translate
into a considerable advantage election-after-election if they are intelligently managed by
an office holder.
In 1787, as our nation was in its formative years, George Mason, signer
of the Declaration of Independence observed, "Elected representatives should be
subject to periodical rotation. For nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the
interest of his constituents as the certainty of returning to the general masses of the
people from whence he was taken and where he must participate in their burdens."
We have already reaped the benefits of new ideas and an increase in the
number of people seeking office as a result of term limits. We are watching as the
self-serving, special interest controlled, money influenced old-timers face removal. Their
reaction doesnt surprise us.
Let them know what you think. Use your middle finger!
|The 1993 Referendum To Create Term Limits
recorded by assembly district
**Councilmember with largest portion of the assembly district listed
Voting count provided by the New York City Board of Elections
These people are not to be taken lightly.
They will sell out the public for a shot at another two years in the sun. They will lie,
and cheat, and steal.
Not 4 Publication.com by Dom Nunziato
Richard Schack contributed to this column.
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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