The Term Limit Change Discussion
It's never a dead issue.
The desperate members of the City Council, fearing an end to their perks, special privileges, big extra income, prestige, pension accumulation and ego gratification, just can't seem to let go.
They don't care what the people say.
They cling to the fantasy that someone - a white knight - will come along to keep them in office.
They whisper to their colleagues about seizing power by voting themselves the right to keep running for office.
Yes, some of them are desperate and will do desperate things to remain as members of the City Council.
They know the people have voted twice for term limits and polls show they will vote for term limits again if asked.
And so the Council whispers to overturn term limits don't start until it is too late to ask the people.
They don't seem to care that they damage themselves and government by trying to legitimize such a vile power grab. Any participation in the quiet effort to over turn term limits is a blemish on the fine record of service of many of the Councilmembers.
And they know that the only reason they got into office was because of term limits.
Their white knight - in this case Mike Bloomberg - doesn't appear to be willing to sell out an exception tenure of governance - to extend his term or their terms and he knows where the people stand - he's asked them by commissioning a poll.
Sure I'd like Mike Bloomberg to continue in public service - he has several good options to continue to serve and we encourage him to stay in the public sector - we need him.
Sure there are many Queens Councilmembers I'd like to see continue in public service and they too have options. As a matter of fact, the 12 Councilmembers who are term limited in 2009 have each either started campaigning, fundraising or discussing a run for another elective office:
State Senate: Joe Addabo Jr Hiram Monserratte, and Jim Gennero are all on the November ballot for the position.
Borough President: Peter Vallone Jr and Leroy Comrie are off and running. Helen Sears is considering a run.
Comptroller: Melinda Katz and David Weprin are both actively in the race.
Public Advocate: Eric Gioia's campaign is well underway.
Mayor: Tony Avella's hat is in the proverbial ring.
Undeclared: John Liu leads all Queens candidates in fundraising; however he has not indicated which office he is seeking.
Finally, James Sanders has talked to us about a number of options but is not a candidate at this time. We do expect to see him running, perhaps in two years.
So if elective office is the calling, there are opportunities. If public service is the career, almost any former office holder can get a government position which will enable them to continue to feed their family.
The private sector often offers even more -- lots more.
The bottom line is pretty simple: Elected officials talking about or plotting to extend their own terms in office continue to foster and expand the dreadful image the people have of their elected officials. The term limit plotting does a disservice to the committed group of Councilmembers who have served our borough and city well.
It should end once and for all.
Each Councilmember should come forward and announce clearly they oppose any Council legislative effort to change term limits without a referendum of the people.
I would encourage the next Mayor to propose, as part of the next charter revision, that any change in term limits of NYC elected officials that was imposed by referendum requires another referendum of the people.
No, Councilmembers should not ever be put in the position of lengthening their own terms. Such grabs for power belong in the movies and in totalitarian nations. Not here in our city.
We don't believe it will happen here and now but want to eliminate the damaging discussion.
If there are any Queens Councilmembers prepared to help us put an end to this undemocratic effort, please call or email us.
Let's end this divisive and ugly discussion.
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HENRY J. STERN
While most of the political world is immersed in the
parties' national conventions, some New Yorkers find
themselves dealing with an old issue unexpectedly revived
by Mayoral speculation: term limits.
The issue was supposedly settled by referenda in 1993
and 1996, when the voters of the City of New York, on
Election Day, expressed their preference for a limit
of eight years, generally consisting of two four-year
terms, for elected officials in New York City government.
The term limits law went into effect with the 2001 elections,
and about three-quarters of the Council membership turned
over at that time, including Peter F. Vallone, Sr, who
had been speaker for 16 years.
The class elected in 2001 will be ineligible to seek
re-election in 2009, and that has led to many candidacies
for other offices, with term-limited councilmembers
seeking borough presidencies and the three city-wide
offices: mayor, comptroller and public advocate. Four
members are seeking seats in the state legislature.
Until recently, the matter had been considered settled,
with Mayor Bloomberg and Council leaders saying they
were committed to term limits. The mayor installed clocks
in numerous agency offices, timing the countdown to
December 31, 2009; today is Day 483. By that reckoning,
118 remain in 2008 (a leap year) and 365 more in 2001.
With the date of departure approaching, the mayor now
says he has reconsidered the issue and has reportedly
consulted newspaper publishers to obtain their approval
of extending his eligibility. Business leaders are said
to be urging him to run to maintain stability in government,
presumably unattainable under any other candidate.
It is unclear at this time what will emerge from further
discussion of term limits by the Council. The deadline
for placing a matter on the ballot in 2008 was September
5, sixty days prior to the election on November 4. We
note that the current agitation about Council action
comes when it is barely too late for the Council to
refer the matter to the public.
One could almost conclude that the timing of this change
of heart was arranged to exclude the public from participation
in the decision. Could it be that some public officials
were more interested in extending their own tenure than
in allowing the people who elected them to limited terms
to decide the issue of whether they were eligible to
run ad infinitum.
Mayor Giuliani made a similar effort in the aftermath
of 9/11, when he proposed that because of the emergency,
the election scheduled for that year should be postponed
three months, with the new mayor taking office on April
1, 2002. The plan was rejected by Assembly Speaker Sheldon
Silver who held the mayor in low regard because of previous
disputes they had over city-state issues.
Widened Gene Pool
This controversy is likely to bubble along for some
time, as some Council members, like passengers on the
Titanic or other threatened vessels, struggle desperately
to escape from the rising waters. They need a rope to
crawl off the sinking ship. As luck would have it, the
two people who could hear their cries, the Mayor and
the Speaker, have promised publicly for seven years
to let the old barge sink, as the people of the province
have twice voted. Although the Speaker does not oppose
a change in the law, she has often said she believes
such a change must come from the electorate, not from
the Council itself.
It would require an embarrassing repudiation of seven
years of public statements, now known as a flip-flop
and possibly punishable at the polls, for the two to
abort term limits just when the program is about to
become effective by sweeping the flotsam and jetsam
off the boat, leaving a leaner and cleaner ship with
a new captain and dozens of fresh crew members. The
better Councilmembers seek higher office, the less able
return to their nonprofits or, God forbid, the private
The irony here is that most of the current cohort of
Councilmen and Councilwomen hold their seats only because
their predecessors were forced from office in 2001 by
the term limits law. In some cases, the new members
are, literally, descendants of the old ones; Peter F.
Vallone, Jr. in Queens, the former Speaker's son, is
the most prominent of the younger generation, which
includes Diane Foster of the Bronx, daughter of her
predecessor, Rev. Wendell Foster, and Erik Martin Dilan
of Brooklyn, son of former Councilman (now State Senator),
Martin Malave Dilan. Joel Rivera, elected Majority Leader
at the age of 22 is the son of former Councilman (now
Assemblyman and Bronx County Democratic leader) Jose
Rivera and brother of Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera; Yvette
Clarke of Brooklyn (since elected to Congress) succeeded
her mother, former Councilwoman Una Clarke.
There is nothing illegal or immoral about children being
elected to follow their parents in public office. It
does, however, indicate the tight grip some Councilmembers
hold over their gerrymandered districts, which they
would represent in perpetuity if the Lord and the grand
juries permitted it.
Term limits broaden the gene pool for councilmembers,
allowing elections to be contested before a dynasty
comes to a natural or unnatural end. Term limits free
up seats more often for genuine, open competition. This
could lead to a better, more representative City Council,
rather than a patchwork of hereditary fiefdoms.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato