By Michael A. Harris
Photography by Michael A.
New York City, October 11th, 2008 (CMN) -- Is Queens resident Dave Kerpen running for New York City Council
next year? The answer is maybe, he told Cable Muse Network (CMN) on Friday.
Kerpen, a Democrat who has already publicly announced his candidacy, held fundraisers and launched a campaign
website (www.davekerpen.com), might have to face incumbent Council Member David I. Weprin (D), who is (at least for now) prohibited
from running by New York City's two-term limit, but that might change if New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I)
gets his way.
Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman turned mayor, recently announced that he was asking the City Council
to pass legislation extending term limits in New York City to three terms so that he could run for mayor again, saying that
he felt that his "financial knowledge and leadership was necessary to protect the city from economic disaster."
Term limits in New York City have twice been voted on by the voters of New York City by ballot referenda,
once in 1993, when they were first established, and again in 1996 in an unsuccessful effort to overturn them. In the
wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, two months before then Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was to be barred from
running for re-election, there was much talk of legislative action to allow Giuliani to seek a third term in the wake of the
catastrophe, but such proposals never came to fruition. In 2002, however the Council did pass such legislation, which
was promptly vetoed by Bloomberg. At the time Bloomberg said that he found the idea of legislative action to overturn
the will of the voters to be "morally repugnant," yet now that is exactly what he is asking the legislature to do.
|Democratic mayoral hopefuls
The afternoon of Bloomberg's
announcement, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn (D), who herself was planning to run for mayor next year announced that
such legislation would be introduced and the next day it was. Public hearings on the matter have been scheduled for
October 16th and 17th. A Quinn spokesman said that she has yet to take a position on the legislation, which would also
extend the terms of four of the five borough presidents, the city comptroller, public advocate and 36 of the 51 members of
the Council, including Quinn.
"The idea of a legislative body voting to extend their own jobs makes me sick," said Kerpen, who
has founded a Facebook group called "New Yorkers for Our Vote to Count," which has already amassed 200 members.
Kerpen's group advocates that a special election be held before the 2009 election to allow the voters to decide whether
or not term limits should be extended or even eliminated. "Regardless of your views on term limits, city residents
voted twice to twice to impose term limits and should be the ones to decide whether or not to extend them, not 27 people,
who would directly benefit from them."
position has garnered support from a diverse community of individuals, good government groups and even many of the elected
officials who could lose their jobs as a result of term limits, including Weprin and many of his Council colleagues.
"This is bigger than any one person, it is about respecting the voice of the voters of the city,"
said Councilman Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn Democrat, who managed Hillary Rodham Clinton's successful 2000 campaign for
the United States Senate. While term limits could put an end to de Blasio's Council term, he said that there
were larger, more fundamental issues at stake. "If we're going to do this, it needs to be done right."
New York City Comptroller and Democratic mayoral hopeful William Thompson was joined by 100 clergy members
Friday afternoon at a City Hall news conference in announcing a citywide day of sermons next Sunday for a ballot referendum,
rather than legislation on the issue. Thompson, along with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D - Brooklyn/Queens) have vowed to continue
in their races for mayor regardless of whether or not Bloomberg is successful in overturning term limits.
Weiner was joined by representatives from the Working Families Party at a news conference Saturday to announce
the launch of www.letnycvote.com, a website aimed at getting people to turn out for next week's hearings and to encourage a ballot
referendum. "Whether you agree with term limits or not, join hundreds of your fellow New Yorkers at the hearing
and let the City Council know that New York City deserves a voice," says the site. "When the people pass a law,
only the people should change it."
Asked about the prospect of a ballot referendum, Bloomberg said that it is "too late to get it on the
ballot for this November." He went on to say that a special election would be an "inappropriate" forum
for a ballot referendum, due to the historically low turnout in special elections. Bloomberg added that anyone who opposes
the proposal "is just afraid of a little bit of competition."
An article published in Saturday's edition of the New York Daily News indicated that as of yet
only 18 of the city's 51 council members had endorsed the proposal.
Bloomberg’s Term Limits