The People’s Will vs. The Council’s Might
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The move by the City Council to legislatively change term limits to extend their own terms in office has met with a universal cry of outrage. Never in my quarter of a century of commenting on government and politics has an elected body ever entertained such a self serving action which so violates the will of the people.
In 1993 and again in 1996, the people passed by referendum term limits of two terms for members of the City Council.
Now, as the seven candidates for Speaker go public, it is obvious that the Council leadership has agreed, behind closed doors, to extend their terms by another four years, without going back to the people.
Although met with initial public outcry, the Council biggies continue to spin seeking for a rationale to spit in the voters face.
Some Council hoohahs declared the Charter-proscribed referendum process undemocratic — you mean, you don’t like the people’s vote so you throw it away?
Some think they know better than the people – their way is good government, therefore they don’t have to follow the people’s will.
One hoohah told me, “the law allows us to change what the people voted for therefore we are doing the democratic thing.”
I’ve spoken out on the subject. I’ve made it clear and will continue to do so, that there is nothing more violative of democracy than a direct assault on the people’s vote by a body they chose to regulate.
There is nothing ambiguous in the two referenda passed by the people. They want two terms and out. And if the Council wants it reconsidered, they must go back to the people – that is what Democracy means.
I applaud Councilman Tony Avella, the only one of 51 members yet who has the integrity to take a stand on behalf of the voters and who actively opposes legislatively undoing the will of the people.
On Primary week, Sept. 15, I wrote in this column “If a law is passed or the Charter is changed by referendum of the people, it can only be changed or modified by another referendum. Any argument to the contrary is bogus and unjust. Now get prepared for some self-serving Councilmembers to try to undo the term limit law voted on by the people. If the will of the people is expressed at the voting booth, elected officials can’t override it. Duh!”
I share with you below, the recent take of some others on the proposed Council term limit action:
DADEY, CITIZENS UNION
Dick Dadey, Executive Director of the good government group Citizens Union.
“It not only is undemocratic, but amazingly brazen for the Council to think that it can extend term limits without going back to the voters.”
BARRETT, VILLAGE VOICE
Wayne Barrett, Village Voice, Council Orgy.
“The 43 re-elected incumbents and eight new members will soon pick a speaker, the second most powerful person in city government. The top item on their 2006 agenda will then be to extend their own terms from eight to 12 years.
They will do so right after overriding an expected mayoral veto and approving a jackpot of union contributions for themselves, smashing prior Campaign Finance Board restraints.
The obvious theory is to do as much damage as possible to their own reputations as far away from the next election as they conceivably can, betting on public amnesia and jettisoning, for the moment, every opinion but their own.”
GOODWIN, DAILY NEWS
Michael Goodwin, Daily News, Pols Unmitigated Gall.
“The people spoke, but the City Council didn’t listen. So the people spoke again, but still the Council didn’t listen. Is the Council hard of hearing, or breathtakingly arrogant?
When the subject is term limits, ‘arrogant’ is the answer. The attitude is the public be damned.
The whole thing has piggy-piggy smell. Term limits are about the only way to get rid of Council members. Of the 51 current members, seven are being forced out by limits and one sought another office. Of the remaining 43, 42 were re-elected. Most had no serious opponent. That’s why term limits are important. And it’s why voters said so twice.”
NY POST EDITORIAL
“If councilmembers want to get rid of term limits, or even loosen the chains a little, they can’t (if they care to maintain one shred of integrity) do so without putting the question before the voters.”
PURNICK, NY TIMES
Joyce Purnick, New York Times, Stretching the Notion of Term Limits.
“And if the vote proceeds, and succeeds? You guessed it. The wealthy Republican who brought term limits to New York in the first place, Ronald S. Lauder, said yesterday that he would try for another referendum to overturn the extension.
‘I’m going to fight it every way,’ Mr. Lauder, the cosmetics heir, said in a phone interview. ‘I will put everything behind it. I didn’t fight the battle twice to give up.
‘I am just disappointed that people who got in through term limits, who thanked me, saying they never would have gotten in otherwise, want to change it so they can stay in.’”
MUZIO, BARUCH COLLEGE
Baruch College Professor Doug Muzzio, 1st Speaker debate moderator.
“To do it legislatively is a big mistake,” Mr. Muzzio said. “It’s bad policy to explicitly overturn the judgment of the voters, and it’s bad politics because they’re going to get hammered, and rightly so.”
Henry Stern, NYCivic.org, Didn’t Their Mothers Tell Them About Shame?
“It is a complete mockery that these people, who are the principal beneficiaries of the term limits which were applied to others after two referenda on the subject, now seek to amend the law in their own interest, so that they can squeeze an extra four years’ emoluments from the city. At $100,000 per year, their public salaries generally exceed their earning capacity in the private sector. Of course, the law allows them to work in the private sector anyway while they are Councilmembers, and many of those who can, do.”
SAUL, DAILY NEWS
Daily News Michael Saul, Mike raps Council’s push to nix term limits.
“Mayor Bloomberg denounced some City Council members’ calls to extend their term limits through legislation as an anti-democratic “outrage” - noting voters twice approved the eight-year limit law.
“[While] it may be that the City Council has a right to override them, deliberately saying to the public, ‘We don’t care what you think,’ I would use the word disgraceful,” Bloomberg said yesterday.”
And PO Boss – (I gather they’re po’d because of the Council’s outrageous plans: poboss..com, Know Why We’re Pissed Off?
“…the issue has been put to the voters not once, but twice over the past 12 years. And both times, we, the voters, chose to enact them.
“We gave you the honor of representing us for eight years - no more, no less.
“So suffice it to say that we’re less than thrilled with your latest efforts to tinker with (let alone, completely undo) the job limitations we placed upon you, the same job limitations btw which put many of you into office in the first place.
“Now we know that some of you believe that you know better than we do, you’ve been quoted saying as much. Have you really forgotten, though, that it is you who works for us?
“And so, allow us to make our bottom line crystal clear: if you wanna make a change to your term limits, YOU must get OUR approval first - no ifs, ands or buts!”