Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bloomberg Pushing Term Limits Amendment

Hearings Scheduled for Oct. 16 and 17, Vote Expected on Oct. 23

By Conor Greene

A one-page bill introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday calls for permanently allowing elected officials to serve three consecutive four-year terms instead of two. The bill is being pushed through quickly and will likely be the subject of public hearings before the end of the month.

At the same time, Councilman David Weprin (R-Hollis) introduced a bill that would require that any change to term limits be done by a referendum, since residents voted twice to establish term limits. The bill is also sponsored by Councilmembers Bill de Blasio, Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and John Liu (D-Flushing).

In addition, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) sponsored a resolution that would force the state legislature “to give the authority to provide in its Charter than any change in its term limits must be submitted to voter referendum.”

“If this Council votes to amend the Term Limits Law without seeking a public referendum, it will go down in history as one of the most blatantly self-serving and autocratic acts of any legislative body in this city’s history,” said Avella, who is running for mayor next year.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has refused to comment publicly on the bill, telling reporters at City Hall on Tuesday that, “I do not have an announcement to make for you today regarding term limits.” After announcing his intentions to amend the term limits law last week, Bloomberg was in Europe this week meeting with foreign leaders.

The attempt by Bloomberg to overturn the current term limits comes as 13 of 14 City Councilmembers from Queens will be forced out of office due to term limits in 2009. Many have already announced their intentions to run for higher office, including Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), who plans to run for comptroller. William Thompson, who currently holds that seat, has indicated that he still plans to move ahead with his mayoral bid, even if term limits are amended.

Katz has not said whether she will abandon her comptroller run and again seek her City Council seat if term limits are extended. However, due to the stricter campaign finance limits for City Council candidates, she would have to return about $400,000 that she has raised for her comptroller bid if she does so.

While Katz has not publicly endorsed a candidate to replace her on the City Council, her spokeswoman told the Daily News that she is friends with “both” candidates, referring to former Assemblyman Michael Cohen and Queens Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz, who represented the 29th District on City Council from 1991 to 2001.

Other candidates for that seat include Heidi Chain Harrison, Lynn Schulman, Bob DeLay and Mel Gagarin.

Other term-limited Councilmembers include Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who is gunning for the state Senate seat currently held by Serf Maltese (R-Glendale), Eric Gioia, who is planning a bid for public advocate, Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), who is eyeing the borough president’s seat and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who is challenging Frank Padavan (R-Queens).

At a civic meeting on Tuesday, Addabbo said that he fundamentally doesn’t agree with the concept of term limits, but said that “what has been created by the people should be changed by the people.” He added that for the City Council to make that decision would be “self-serving and wrong” and is something he won’t support.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg, who doesn’t have a job lined up after his mayoral term ends next year, is working hard to push his bill through the City Council. Public hearings have reportedly already been scheduled for October 16 and 17, and a vote is expected on October 23.

Possibly complicating matters, Assemblyman Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) was expected to hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon announcing his plans to introduce a bill that would prevent Bloomberg from extending term limits without first holding a public referendum.

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