While several city elected officeholders continue to champion extending term limits, others remain steadfast that the will of the people prevail.
Either way, the debate is picking up steam after Mayor Bloomberg hinted he may support extending the two four-year terms another term for all city elected officials.
The move would allow Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and 11 of the 16 of the Brooklyn delegation to the City Council to run for a third term.
Achieving the extension of term limits could happen with a majority City Council vote, despite two public referendums – in 1993 and 1996 – in which city voters overwhelmingly supported the term limits.
Among the organizations that oppose any move for the City Council and mayor to extend the term limits is the Citizens’ Union, a city government watchdog group.
“Citizens’ Union agrees that there may be compelling reasons to permit elected officials to seek three four-year terms. However, the Mayor and the Council should not make this change without the benefit of public input and citizen approval,” said Citizens’ Union Executive Director Dick Dadey.
“Any attempt to change these limits by legislation would undermine New Yorkers’ confidence in government by making it appear that our elected officials are acting in their own self-interest rather than in the public interest. The expressed will of the citizens rises above all other considerations,” he added.
Dadey said the organization does request again that a City Charter Revision Commission undertake a thorough review and reconsider the issue.
Among the items a commission should consider is whether new terms in office should be staggered so that only a third of the Council seats are open to election every two years to avoid a near total turnover in the Council at the end of the final permitted term, Dadey said.
Adding another four-year term will also impact many individuals who have already announced their intention to run for an open City Council seat.
“It is simply wrong and undemocratic for the City Council to consider legislatively extending their terms for an additional four year years,” said Bob Zuckerman, an announced candidate to replace term-limited Bill de Blasio for the 39th District City Council seat.
“For a body of 51 people, where all it takes is a simple majority of 26 votes to pass a new law to extend their own terms flies in the face of what the voters say on this. Over one million residents in New York City participated in these referendums,” he added.
Zuckerman noted that many city officials owe the fact they got to run for an open seat to the referendum.
Jo Anne Simon, who has declared her candidacy for term-limited David Yassky’s 33rd City Council seat, also said the will of the people in their referendum vote should prevail.
“All of us who seek New York City office in 2009 are vulnerable to a charge of being self-serving; so, too are those who would seek to overturn term limits,” said Simon.
“Nevertheless, the issue of term limits is a serious one with significant consequences to the people of New York City,” she added.
Simon said she did not vote for term limits in the referendum because “the law of unintended consequences would rear its ugly head.”
“All too soon, those recently elected would have to set their eyes on the next office to be sought, leading to misplaced focus and an over-reliance on un-elected staff,” said Simon.
Simon said she believes that the two-term limit was too short for the legislative branch, but about right for the executive branch.
“I believe the legislative function is collaborative, but the executive function is different and a term longer than two terms is too much. Executives tend to be overly executive after a while,” said Simon.
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