Monday, October 25, 2010

We Say Vote No on Term Limits
Proposal #1

This is the reason why!
Reprinted from The Daily News Wednesday, October 20th 2010.

Vote for term limits, but demand another crack at it next year

When New Yorkers go to the polls on Nov. 2, they'll get to decide - for a third time - whether they want a two-term limit for all city elected officials. I was a member of the 2010 New York City Charter Revision Commission that put this choice on the ballot as part of Question 1. While I strongly encourage all voters to vote yes on this question, I believe that the decision by the Charter commission to exempt incumbents from the two-term limit was incorrect.
Unfortunately, this provision will serve to increase cynicism rather than help to restore confidence in government.
That is why I propose that if New Yorkers vote yes on Question 1, they be given a chance next year to vote on whether the two-term limit should apply to incumbents as well. The only way that will happen is if all New Yorkers who agree with this suggestion speak up and demand this choice.

First, some history. The Charter commission on which I served was created by Mayor Bloomberg in the aftermath of the public's outrage over the way that city elected officials overturned two public referendums on term limits. You no doubt know the story: In 1993, the public overwhelming supported a two-term limit for all city officials. This was reaffirmed by a second referendum in 1996.
Then these two decisions were overturned by the City Council and mayor in 2008, enabling all city elected officials to serve three full terms.
Given that history, the Charter commission unanimously voted to put a two-term limit on the ballot - to give New Yorkers a chance to go back to the way things were. We also voted unanimously to eliminate the ability of the City Council to overturn a public referendum on term limits for current elected officials.
So far, so good.

But the Charter commission was sharply divided on the question of when the two-term limit would become effective. Of the 15 members on the commission, six of us wanted the change to be effective immediately so that it would apply to all incumbents.
After two nights of impassioned debates and a few attempts at compromise, the commission narrowly voted to make the change applicable only to officials who were first elected in or after the 2010 general election. In other words, all incumbents who are not already in their third terms would be "grandfathered in" and would get a shot at a third term.
After hearing all the public testimony and listening to my fellow commissioners, I remain convinced that our panel got this provision wrong. In a minority report that I authored along with two fellow commissioners, we stated that "by 'grandfathering' all incumbents, the commission failed to deliver on the public's implicit demand that the restoration occur as soon as possible." In fact, during the commission's numerous discussions, I did not hear even one good reason for granting such a windfall to incumbents, who can't seem to take no for an answer.

One message was heard loud and clear at our hearings: The public wanted to go back to two terms and wanted us to end the City Council's ability to override the will of the people on term limits. Regrettably, instead of being fully responsive to those concerns, we actually created another "loophole" by making the effective date so far in the future.
Not all is lost. I strongly urge the public to vote yes on Question 1. Returning to a two-term limit that cannot be overturned by the City Council will go a long way toward restoring some of our faith in government. However, once those changes are enacted, we need another Charter commission or public referendum to give New Yorkers the chance to finish the job we started.
Cassino is a lawyer who lives in the Bronx.

We Say Vote No On Proposal #1

No comments:

Post a Comment