2008-10-10 / Editorial/Opinion

Trying To Steal Democracy In Front Of Our Eyes

Our billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and billionaire Ronald Lauder, who sparked the original term limits movement, have made a deal. That deal will allow Bloomberg and other city elected officials to run for a third four-year term this year and this year only. Isn't that nice! We have a feeling that somebody important was left out of the deal-making process. Who might that be? You and the rest of the city's voters who have twice approved term limits of eight years, not twelve years, for our city officials. Lauder, by the way, made that deal in return for a promise that the mayor would appoint him to a seat on any charter revisions committee that sits in the future to change not only term limits, but other charter provisions as well. Talk about deals made in the proverbial smoke-filled room, this one takes the cake. The voters spoke in 1993, sending a clear message that the electorate wants eight-year term limits for all city officials. They spoke again in 1996. What is it about the two votes that Bloomberg, Lauder and the City Council do not understand? Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who wants to be mayor and who spoke out earlier in the year against changing the term limit law, now says that she can see merit in the mayor's proposal. But, while the mayor and Lauder say that the change would be for this election only, Quinn says that if the council votes the change, as it may do by law, then it will be permanent. Lauder retorted that he would oppose a permanent change in the law, and he has the money to back it up. Lawyers say that it would be harder to justify the temporary change because voters would look at it as self-serving. Some argue that, should a change be made, it be made for the next City Council and not the one that sits presently. How do the two councilmen who represent Rockaway feel about the extension? James Sanders Jr. told the Daily News that he is undecided at this time. Joseph Addabbo Jr., who is running for the State Senate no matter what, said that he is opposed to the council changing the law without going back to the voters. "This has to be brought back to the people, because only they can make the change," a spokesperson for Addabbo told The Wave early this week. Quinn says that she has a majority of councilmembers who will vote to change the law, but only a handful would go on record as voting for the change. They are frightened about the voters' reaction to the theft of democracy they are attempting to pull off, and well they should be. We urge voters to turn out any politicians who vote to steal the people's voice, who pilfer democracy while we are looking straight at them. Any politician who votes for the change should be drummed out of office as soon as possible and we believe that they will be. A few councilmembers know the right way to do this, however, and Councilman Tony Avella has introduced a resolution on Tuesday that would require the state to amend the Municipal Home Rule Law so that any change in the term limits law would be subject to voter referendum. We urge Sanders and Addabbo to support Avella's resolution. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is running for mayor, no matter whether term limits are changed or not, says that there is a right way and a wrong way to change the term limit law and the mayor is doing it the wrong way. "This was a back room deal that excludes public input," Weiner said. "The right way is to hold a public referendum. There is still time to do it the right way." Weiner is right.

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