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OPPOSITION GROWING TO NYC TERM LIMITS

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Third Term for Bloomberg?

By Michael A. Harris

 

Photography by Michael A. Harris

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.

Michael R. Bloomberg (CableMuse.com) Harris

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.  

Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn (CableMuse.com) Harris
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." 

 

Kerpen's 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."

Two complaints, one by former Deputy Mayor Randy Maestro on behalf of de Blasio, Council Member Letitia James (D - Brooklyn) and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum (D) and another by Common Cause New York and the New York Public Interest Research Group were filed Friday with the City's Conflict of Interest board, challenging the Council's authority to pass such legislation.

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.

Related Articles:

Bloomberg’s Term Limits

Backroom Deal?

Strong Accusations

Michael A. Harris, is a Freelance News Editor for PWdBC and New York City correspondent for Cable Muse Network.

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