Volume 20, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 25 - September 1, 2010
Charter Commission: missed opportunity
On Monday evening the Charter Commission finalized language concerning resolutions to appear on the ballot this November. The one resolution to note, and essentially the primary reason behind the commission’s existence, is the resolution pertaining to term limits for elected officials.
When voters go to the polls they will once again be allowed to choose whether city officials are eligible to be elected to two four-year-terms as opposed to the three four-year-terms currently established.
Posing such a question is nothing new. It was clear in 1993, and then again in 1996, by referendum at the polls that most voters want a two-term limitation. However it is here where we must remind readers why this choice once again found its way to the ballot box.
In 2008, what we consider the low points of their careers, Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and 28 other council members decided to govern by fiat and slap the plebiscite in the face by extending the two-term limit to three terms for all city officials. They used the economic collapse as their reasoning for ignoring the voice and the role of the public. But as we opined then, we still believe it was a purely despicable act of conflicted self-interest and political arrogance. After realizing the public outrage, Bloomberg attempted to appease the electorate by establishing this most recent Charter Commission with the particular task of taking another look at the term limit question, even though the question seemed, at least to most, to be non-existent after the 1996 vote.
It was more than disappointing to find out commission members did not avail themselves of the opportunity to remove a grandfather clause that will allow officials currently in office to serve three terms regardless of the voters’ decision come election time. Momentum was building to remove the grandfather clause and the commission was by no means united in its belief it should remain. One member went so far as to say, “An essential injustice is being done.”
The argument against removing the clause was that it would be unfair to those elected to office in 2010 under the auspices of a three-year term possibility. To that argument we must say, “Nothing in life is guaranteed.” That is a cliché at best, but most clichés exist for a reason; they are usually true.
For that group who thought they were locked into a three-term limitation, we ask, “What about the things in life we the voters thought were failsafe?”
We grow comfortable in our school zoning, believing our kids will go to a certain school only to find out they are no longer allowed to. We learn to depend on essential senior services that get cut no matter how much we protest.
It is a shame the rules that apply to us cannot be tolerated by a select few. A larger shame, however, we hope to never have to write about, would be, if come November, the possibility that once again the voters’ voice will be ignored. There is language in the resolution this time around that ensures term limits will never again be overturned except by the will of the voters. To our future elected officials, we hope you do not succumb to naked self-interest and decide to silence us yet again when it benefits you politically.