2008-10-24 / Letters

New Yorkers, Give The Council An Earful On Term Limits

Dear Editor,

I respect the powerful and wealthy people who have made great contributions to our city and now want to extend term limits by vote of the City Council. But the ultimate question is who has a right to speak on fundamental changes to our laws. I believe in the case of term limits, it is citizens who have that right, and we should not take it away.

Today you have a chance to use your voice to save your vote.

New Yorkers first voted term limits into law 15 years ago, and did again two years later. Now the mayor and the City Council are trying to override that law so they can run for a third term. Instead of New Yorkers having a say, they've retreated behind closed doors to strike back-room deals to get it done.

Everyday New Yorkers are getting shut out.

So today, after weeks of insider dealing, the Council is finally holding the one and only planned public hearing on term limits where you, the people of New York City, can make your voices heard.

It starts at 1 p.m. at City Hall. They've pledged to go all night if they have to.

You should be there. You should testify. Tell the politicians and the elites that this is your city, and your choice, not theirs.

It doesn't really matter whether you agree or disagree with term limits. If you think the Council should extend the limits from two to three terms because the city is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, as some argue, great - participate. If you think that two terms is enough, come out.

Do I have a personal interest in this fight? You bet. I want to be the city's next mayor. But this battle is bigger then my ambitions or my plans for the city.

I believe that when the people pass a law, there is a right way and a wrong way to change it. The right way is to go back to the people and let them have an up or down vote through a public referendum. There's more than enough time to do that here.

The mayor has chosen the wrong way. New York City should stand up and say "no way." We know there's a better way because we've done it before: - In 1987, Mayor Ed Koch's Charter

Revision Commission held six hearings.

- Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 1998 Charter

Revision Commission held hearings

in every borough. - In 2001, a citywide vote on five

changes to the charter followed 10

public meetings and five hearings. - In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg's Charter

Revision Commission, despite only two proposed changes on the

ballot, held 15 public meetings and

five hearings, one in every borough. And all these changes were decided by a public referendum.

Everyday comes another revelation about another deal. A billionaire who opposed term limits gets a seat on the next Charter Revision Commission in exchange for his support. We hear story after story about the mayor's aides horse-trading with reluctant members of the Council to win their votes.

Just about the only people who aren't coming out ahead on this deal are the people whose votes actually matter - average New Yorkers.

There are those who say that changing the law through the Council can be as democratic (small d) a process as a public referendum. They're wrong. Fifty-one elected officials making a decision in a City Hall hearing room will never be as democratic as millions of New Yorkers going to the ballot box. I will continue to press for a public referendum.

But that doesn't make today's hearing any less important. It's the first, and perhaps only, opportunity you will be given to make your voice heard. Don't let it pass.

Tell the City Council that when they want to change your law, they're going to have to go through you to do it.


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