Lopez wins right to run for reelection

By Lincoln Anderson

Saying she was confident all along of the outcome, Councilmember Margarita Lopez was still elated to find out last week that the Appellate Division had reversed the lower State Supreme Court’s March decision that would have prevented her and five Council colleagues from seeking another two years in office.

The four-judge panel ruled the City Council did not act inappropriately in amending the term-limits provisions to give the six members, including Council Speaker Gifford Miller, an expected mayoral candidate in 2005, the chance to serve up to eight years in the Council. Under the original term-limits law, the six members could have only served six years due to a wrinkle caused by redistricting, which shortened one of their terms to two years.

The other members are Bill Perkins and Phil Reed of Manhattan, Tracey Boyland of Brooklyn and Madeline Provenzano of the Bronx.

All of the six members’ seats were empty in 1997 when the term-limits law passed, which, according to Lopez, means, were the law not modified, these seats would have been locked in a pattern where their districts could have members only able to serve a maximum of six years for two successive periods, followed by a maximum of eight years, which would keep repeating forever.

“I was confident that we were going to win in the appeals process,” Lopez said yesterday. “The issue here was if the legislative body had the right to correct things in a piece of legislation so as to create a level playing field. The voters didn’t vote to create an un-level playing field.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Randy Mastro, a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and a former deputy mayor under former Mayor Giuliani. According to Lopez, the plaintiffs have been ordered to pay the Council’s legal fees in the case.

The plaintiffs are Martin J. Goldin, a Republican councilmember elected to the state senate last year; Felipe Luciano, a Democrat who lost a council race last year, and Jeffrey Livingston, a Republican who lost a congressional race in 1996.

“They can appeal,” Lopez said. “They’re going to lose. But more than that, they’re wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Lopez said it wasn’t the first time the Council has corrected a referendum, mentioning the legislation pertaining to the membership of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The East Side Councilmember was in the Council Chamber for a Human Resources Administration budget hearing Monday when she got the news from a staff member from the speaker. She said H.R.A. Commissioner Verna Eggleston, a personal friend, gave her a hug and said, “Congratulations my sister!”

Lopez then went to Miller’s office where the hugging continued.

“If I remember correctly,” Lopez said, “we hugged each other and he said, “I knew it! I knew it! I knew we will win this!’ And I said, ‘Thank God this is over. Now we can move on to the election process.’ ”

Regardless of whether the plaintiffs appeal, Lopez will start petitioning in June to get on the ballot in September.

“I have to finish my mission that I began in my district,” she said. “One of the things I set out to accomplish is the end of division in my district.”

Lopez also said Community Board 3 is much less divisive than it used to be.

As for her critics in the district, she noted she won election last time with 87 percent of the vote.

“These are simply the same people who are always putting forward criticism of me that is not true,” she said.

Lopez added of the term-limits extension: “This is not about me — this is about the district. We cannot allow our district to be shortchanged. And this law fixes that.”

She feels not being able to have a councilmember in office for up to eight years hurts the district in terms of continuity and prevents it from having a councilmember with seniority.


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