Two Terms or Three? Voters Will Get to Decide

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

City voters will get to decide in November whether to restore a two-term limit for elected officials or keep the current three-term cap put in place in 2008. Last night, after months of public hearings, the mayor's Charter Revision Commission finalized the questions that will go on the general election ballot this November.

The catch: Even if voters reject the current status quo and demand a return to two terms, the referendum will still grandfather in current City Council members, borough presidents and citywide officials and allow them to run for a third term.

Commission member Stephen Fiala says that third term is necessary to maintain a healthy mix of fresh faces and experienced lawmakers. Otherwise, only 19 current first-term council members will be allowed to run again.

"It permits a more balanced staggering of terms, thus creating a more responsible government," said Fiala.

Commission member Joseph McShane had argued that whatever voters decided should take effect immediately. In other words: If voters go for two terms, that's it -- no 'grandfather clause' for people in their second term. "That someone who had run for office ran with the expectation of three terms. Somehow that expectation became a right, and I had difficulty dealing with that concept," said McShane.

In the end, McShane's option did not win enough votes to pass, and the third-term 'grandfather clause' prevailed.

And that's the relatively simple ballot question. The commission also decided to ask voters a second referendum question in November, a single question that touches on several issues, like improving campaign finance disclosure, reducing the number of petition signatures needed to run for office, increasing the fines for violations of the city's conflict of interest laws -- and more.  

Commission chairman Matthew Goldstein says lumping these issues into a single question is necessary because of the physical constraints of the ballot.

The commission's final referendum questions now go to the city's Law Department for review before being printed and distributed -- so that voters can try to make sense of them before walking into the booth on Election Day.

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Comments [2]

Anonymous Coward from NYC

The Charter Revision Commission for the past 20 years is beyond 'Democracy Inaction.' It is a show. It is a sign of our times.

I was against term limits at first, but it really did improve things for the city. Politicians were entrenched and gaming the system.

New Yorkers voted for term limits twice.

It was subverted the second time due to a 'budget emergency,' which Bloomberg said was solved after he got his term limit lifted! (Even 9/11/01's attacks couldn't get Giuliani's term extended while the fires burned.) When a reporter asked Bloomberg during "The Triumphant End of the Budget Emergency Press Conference' if that meant that he wasn't going to run for a third term, Bloomberg said: "That's irrelevant," and walked out of his press conference. He's right. The excuse was all he needed to run, and his hundreds of millions did the rest.

We are irrelevant. Money and connections rule.

All we get is smokescreens, division, and distractions.

Now we get to vote for a third time, but this time it won't take effect for over ten years?!!

In 1994 and 2010, I tried to contact the commission with suggestions to consider. No response in 1994. This year they had a web-based form on that I used. No response. Their website changed their mailing address twice. I sent them my suggestions three times. Two times returned by the Post Office. The Commission never even acknowledged receipt of correspondence.

They don't care about us. These are politically connected people doing favors, padding their resumes, networking with each other, and showing their betters that they can put on the veneer of democracy, too.

Here are my charter reforms:

The Public Advocate shouldn't succeed the Mayor; the Comptroller should.

City Council Districts should equal Community Board districts, as well as Precinct Councils.

Community Boards should have local budgeting powers and the Councilperson should be like a local executive.

NYC needs a Department of Tourism, either that or tourism should be part of the Public Advocate's office or the Department of Cultural Affairs. (The Department of Consumer Affairs only taxes tour-guides.) NYC&Co is a quasi-private marketing agency that will never take a tourist's side over one of its dues-paying members who fund NYC&Co. Tourism brings in $30 billion a year (NYC got $20 Billion from the Feds after 9/11/01), and tourism employs 11% of New Yorkers, mostly working class from immigrants, to skilled, to retirees with Masters degrees.

Aug. 25 2010 01:42 AM
g.e.Taylor from Bklyn., NY

I was a fan of "term limits" in the past until the events of 2008-2009 demonstrated that the "sheople" get the representatives they deserve.
April 2008: NYC's newspapers uncover a conspiracy to embezzle public funds. Quinn admits to conspiring with other members of the council in allocating funds to nonexistent groups.
Those funds are subsequently spent at the discretion of Ms. Quinn.
[ ] Quinn claims that the purpose of this sham was to "correct mistakes" in the city's budget.
[ ]
The scandal was buried in the US Attorney's office since then and our usually the fierce watchdogs of the press have been satisfied not to make any inquiries. (After all it is an ongoing investigation or a personnel matters and we all know that the press never intrudes into such matters. [LMFAO])
[Compare the US Attorney's alacrity when bringing charges against the "little people" based on misuse of public funds. [ ]
By coincidence in 2008, the "Mayor-for-as-Long-as-He-Wants-To-Be" is seeking to overturn the electorate's establishment of Term Limits which would thwart his regal whim. The council graciously granted the mayor's request.
[ Was anyone surprised when it appeared that "Millionaire Mike" was running his own slush fund for the council's benefit ? ]

Nonetheless, when an election for most of these "paragons of civic virtue" was held in 2009, the electorate returned them to the offices they had dishonored. [One exception was the councilperson from my neighborhood, I believe his name is Yatski. Mr. Yatski was not re-elected and has been forced to accept a well paying public sinecure at the Taxi and Limousine Commission] With that exception (maybe there were others) the electorate failed the test and does not deserve the representation that is earned by a vigilant and energetic polity.

Aug. 24 2010 02:12 PM

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