Here we go
City Council term limits are under attack.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that some of those Councilmembers
are the folks behind the move.
Former Council Speaker, present lobbyist/attorney Peter Vallone
Sr. is leading the effort. A longtime opponent of term limits,
Vallone made an unsuccessful run for Mayor in 2001, when he was
forced from the Council as Speaker of the first class of Councilmembers
term limited from office by a law passed by a referendum of the
people. Prior to that, Vallone led an unsuccessful effort to extend
term limits by referendum.
The Overturn Effort
But every time Councilmem-bers see their careers ending, someone
comes along and tries to overturn, tweak or extend term limits.
We'd bet that Vallone Sr. is the stalking horse here for current
Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn, like Vallone, when faced with
the end of her Council career, set her sights on the Mayoralty.
However, Quinn was caught hiding millions of dollars of discretionary
funds in the name of phony or phantom groups and along with the
scandal, went her viability as a candidate for citywide office.
We doubt that Quinn is ready to go gently into retirement from
elective office. And what better way is there to extend her stay
and perhaps heal the wounds of scandal but to remain in the Council
and continue to lead as Speaker. And who is more likely to support
such an effort but the lobbyists who have been earning their living
by cozying up to the councilmembers and the Speaker.
Now we have no proof of connection between Quinn and Vallone's
effort to change term limits so that she and some three dozen
other Councilmembers can remain in office. But c'mon, this effort
is going to require their cooperation, action and support. Funds
will be needed for the Vallone Sr. sell job. Take a look at the
source of those funds - folks doing business with the present
Council? Peter Vallone Sr. is too smart. He would not have embarked
on this publically unpopular crusade without the "encouragement"
of the present Speaker.
Stop it! This is another attempt to pave the way for Councilmembers
to extend their own terms in office. If it were a true principled,
good government effort, it would not apply to anyone presently
term limited. It could take effect four or even eight years later.
But we know that too many members fear losing their pension -
they only have eight years of service -- not ten; while others
fear they may have to go out and earn an honest living not on
the public's buck. There are present Council-members who would
even attempt to legislatively override the referendum passed by
the people in order to extend their own terms.
Peter Vallone Sr. is an honorable guy and when faced with an effort
to overturn term limits legislatively by his Council eight years
ago, he stopped the effort. We assume he would never lend support
to any effort that did not include a referendum where the people
The Sky Is Falling
Vallone has cited the present fiscal crisis as the need to extend
Council terms. He thinks that those in office are the only ones
who can effectively deal with budgetary restraints.
Let me remind Vallone Sr. that whatever crisis he thinks this
city is facing now warranting a change in term limits, none could
be as overwhelming or as daunting as the crisis faced by our city
in the post 9-11 period when his Council was replaced by a new
one and Rudy Giuliani gave way to Mike Bloomberg.
Vallone's cry is the same cry as last time. They told us the sky
would fall if there was a wholesale change in the Council and
Citywide elected officials. The old Councilmembers sang tales
of doom and gloom that the City would suffer greatly if they were,
as a group, forced from office along with the Mayor and others.
Yes, we were told that we'd be robbed of the institutional knowledge
essential to run government and the sky would fall.
Sorry Chicken Little, the sky did not fall. The old Council which
was term limited left and was replaced by a new, younger more
energized Council whose members knew they had eight years to make
a difference and leave their mark. The old tired Council was not
missed. The old tired relationships and deals with special interest
groups and lobbyists ended and it took years to reestablish them.
Wonderful talented new blood became part of the Council: John
Liu, Eric Gioia, Joe Addabbo Jr., and Peter Vallone Jr., the outstanding
son of the man who wants to fix what is not broken, were given
the opportunity to serve because of term limits. Melinda Katz,
Leroy Comrie, Helen Sears, David Weprin, Jim Gennaro brought the
Council years of governmental experience with their new energy
and new vision. Even independents Tony Avella, Hiram Monserrate
and James Sanders brought new insight, and ways of getting it
done. Queens had a marvelous class of new Councilmem-bers elected
and so did the rest of the City.
And my friends, the sky did not fall. As a matter of fact, a new
progressive light shone through the clouds and change and progress
highlighted much of the work of the new Council since term limits
brought us new blood. The change came because Councilmembers were
new. There were bright, energetic, driven people who now eight
years later, must make way for the new class of bright, energetic,
Term Limit Experiment
Term limits was a great New York experiment. And I'll grant Vallone
Sr. one thing - the results are not all in. We have seen one complete
Council turnover as a result of term limits and the answer is
a resounding yes, it worked.
An old tired Council was replaced by a new energized one. An old,
divisive but accomplished Mayor was term limited out of office
and replaced by the best Mayor I've seen in my lifetime.
Change my friend was for the good - the very, very good.
And now the bold experiment of term limits will face its second
test. Another Council class and citywide officials will be gone
and replaced by new blood. And we're betting that like the previous
class, they will come with fresh ideas, an abundance of energy
and some wonderful visions of good government and public service.
Hopefully, their eight years won't rob them of that sterling exuberance.
Yes, There Is A Downside
And sadly, term limits will also end the Mayoralty of Mike Bloomberg,
the gifted and independent visionary who showed us that government
is more important than politics, business management principles
work in government and doing the right thing, is always the right
And it is for that last reason that we are confident that the
Vallone Sr. crusade will fail.
The only person who perhaps could lend real credibility to the
effort is Mike Bloomberg. He had previously commissioned a poll
and found that the people support term limits as they are. With
that knowledge, the Mayor abandoned any effort to modify term
limits. He understands that the bold term limit experiment must
be allowed to continue and that no man is bigger than the government.
While like so many others, we hope Mike Bloomberg continues in
public service. While he said his future is in philanthropy, we
believe there is a Governorship in Albany or a Cabinet position
in DC where this unique individual can continue to serve the people.
We have a rich, diverse and wonderful city. It is filled with
an infinite number of talented, dedicate people ready to serve.
We've met many; we know many. We believe in New York City.
And in spite of the loss of Mike Bloomberg and many talented Councilmembers,
other New Yorkers will come forward. It happened in 2001 and it
will happen in 2009.
Anyone who believes that only those in office are able to run
this city, sadly doesn't understand the marvelous people of New
Anyone who believes that term limits will cause the sky to fall,
just doesn't get it.