Scramble On To Line Up Votes For Term Limits Extension Bill
A vote on the City Council's term limits bill could come any day now, after two days of raucus hearings on the controversial measure. However, there will be no vote scheduled if Speaker Christine Quinn doesn't have the 26 votes needed to pass the bill.
Another obstacle standing in the way of passage is cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder's stand against giving 15 incumbent councilmembers a third term under the bill awaiting a decision.
The bill provides a third term for the mayor and sitting citywide officials and councilmembers due to complete their two terms in office next year.
The 15 incumbents are reportedly refusing to give in to Quinn's urgings to vote for the bill until they have assurances they'll get the three terms.
Lauder has been promised by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he'll have a seat on the Charter Commission that would restore the two-term term limits law in the future if the mayor's extension plan goes through eventually. As long as Lauder wants to deny the incumbent councilmembers three terms, they will not vote for the mayor's bill.
Councilmember David Weprin (D- Hollis) has publicly taken a forward position against the bill, and has in fact introduced a bill saying the term limits law should be changed only by a public referendum.
Taking a similar position against the Bloomberg-backed bill is Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D- Corona), who acknowledges that the mayor has done a good job over the nearly seven years of his two terms in office. "I do not believe our present day (term limits) scenario can or should overturn the repeatedly expressed will of the city's voters."
Meanwhile, Councilmember Helen Sears (D- Jackson Heights) said in a prepared statement earlier this week: "I have listened carefully to the arguments presented by those both in favor of the bill to extend term limits and those opposed.
"It is my sincere belief that it is in the best interest of the City of New York to extend term limits from two terms to three."
The strong opposition to the term limits law favoring Mayor Bloomberg's desire to seek a third term, as expressed in two days of public hearings last week, received solid support on Monday from a person who has the financial resources to affect the eventual outcome of this issue. Thomas Golisano, an upstate billionaire, said he would finance an advertising campaign to fight the mayor's plan.
Golisano, who has run unsuccessfully three times for governor of New York state, also said he would put up the funding to challenge the proposed bill in the courts if it becomes law.
If Lauder's terms for peace with Bloomberg cannot be met, the mayor, a billionaire in his own right, will have to fight two big spenders who will be opposing his plans.
During the City Hall hearings, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D- Forest Hills) and City Comptroller William Thompson voiced their opposition to the mayor's third term plans and reiterated that they would move to become candidates against him.
At the council hearings last week, Anthony W. Crowell, counselor to the mayor, read into the record a statement on the mayor's behalf in support of the bill.
It described the mayor's accomplishments over the past almost seven years, such as crime reduction, improvements in city schools, construction of affordable housing and restrictions on smoking, and general economic improvements.
Crowell also cited the present Wall Street crisis, which may have changed many voters' positions on term limits in looking for ways to meet the challenges of the economic downturn.
"The mayor has come to believe that it is in the city's best interests to give voters more options, not fewer, and let them decide who they want in office," the statement said.