2005-12-07 / Political Page

Avella Comes Out In Opposition To Term Limits Extension

City Councilmember Tony Avella, who in the past has not agreed with his colleagues on some controversial issues, has come out in opposition to the council’s quest to extend the term they may serve and declared that if the effort is successful, he will not run for election to a third term.

“I was elected to the city council because of term limits,” he stated. “I cannot now deny that opportunity to someone else who seeks a public service career and wants to run.”

Avella (D–Bayside) made his position on the controversial subject known in a “Dear Colleague” letter which ended: “One of the campaign promises I made in 2001 was to do whatever I could to restore people’s faith in their elected officials. I hope that the council will not decide to take this course of action and take a huge step in restoring the public’s faith in this body.”

The possible change in the term limits law from the present two-term limit to three terms—onlyfor councilmembers—surfaced after the recent elections when several lawmakers announced that they plan to seek the council speaker’s job when the council meets for the first time on January 4.

Among the aspirants for the speaker’s chair were Councilmembers Melinda Katz (D–Forest Hills), Leroy Comrie (D–St. Albans) and David Weprin (D–Hollis) all from Queens. Weprin is not among those proposing changes in the term limits law.

Avella, who in the past aroused the council leadership’s ire by refusing to vote for a large real estate tax increase, said in the letter that he found the proposed change in term limits offensive.

He said the city’s voters “could not have been clearer” when they twice indicated their support for two four-year terms. “I have always felt,” he stated, “that an elected official should set an example. The worst possible self-interested action the city council could take is to extend their own jobs by extending term limits.”

Avella believes, “It is a betrayal of the public trust if the council tries to legislatively overturn term limits.”

He said, “While I oppose any attempt to extend our terms, the only honorable way is to present the proposal in a referendum for the public to decide, with one important proviso: that the new term apply to future councilmembers, not the current class.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also said that if councilmembers feel they want to change the present law, it should be done in a referendum to let the public decide.

Avella is the first to express opposition to changing the term limits law. It is generally felt that since no other councilmember has expressed opposition that the change would be voted for and would be passed. Virtually every member who won re-election to a second four-year term on November 8 would benefit by a change to the current term limits.

MAYOR KICKS OFF COAT DRIVE: Declaring “New Yorkers are among the most generous people in the world,” Bloomberg last week kicked off the 17th annual New York Cares Coat Drive at the Bowery Mission in Lower Manhattan. The drive is intended to collect thousands of gently used adults’ and children’s coats throughout December and distribute them to needy New Yorkers at homeless shelters, agencies serving seniors and other community organizations.

New York Cares hopes to reach a milestone during the drive–the collection of the millionth coat since these drives started in 1989. It’s expected 50,000 coats will be donated and distributed to the needy. There is a particular need for large size men’s winter coats, as well as coats for women and children.

Coats can be dropped off at police precincts in the city any time, day or night; during business hours at participating Washington Mutual Bank branches and Janovic Plaza stores, and weekdays from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Grand Central Terminal (Graybar Passage), Penn Station (LIRR and New Jersey Transit and Amtrak Concourses), and the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal, main concourse, 42nd Street entrance.

Additional dropoff points can be found online at www.nycares.org.

JUDGE SEEKS PAID SUSPENSION: Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne, who is facing removal from the bench, has asked court authorities to suspend her, which would then enable her to continue collecting her $136,700-a-year salary.

Blackburne, from Queens, is facing removal from the bench for helping a robbery suspect who appeared before her to go free in a bail case. The suspect then eluded detectives waiting to arrest him.

Blackburne’s unusual request is the first removal case in which the judge had asked to be suspended, Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, said.

In its decision, the commission said Blackburne had set a reprehensible example for court officers and other court personnel by her action. Her lawyer said the judge made the suspension request to avoid putting an undue financial burden on herself and not have to return to the bench with a cloud over her head.

CIVIC ASSOCIATION’S HOLIDAY PARTY: Officials at the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association are expecting a large turnout of Queens lawmakers at their Legislative Reception and Dessert Gala on Thursday, December 15, at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, 71-25 Main St. at 8 p.m.

Among those expected, the officials said, are Congressmember Anthony Weiner, state Senators Malcolm Smith and Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblymembers Nettie Mayersohn and Brian McLaughlin and Councilmember James Gennaro.

COUNCIL CONSIDERS SURVIVING SPOUSE HEALTH CARE: The city council Civil Service and Labor Committee, chaired by Councilmember Joseph Addabbo (D–Ozone Park) recently held a hearing on a bill which would continue to provide health care coverage to surviving spouses or domestic partners of retirees who die.

The bill is sponsored by Weprin (D–Hollis) and is supported by District Council 37 (DC37), and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, among others.

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