2010-11-04 / This Week's Attitude

Voters Let Politicians Know That Eight (Years) Is Enough!

This Week’’s Attitude
By Neil S. Friedman

For months, polls have indicated that most citizens are displeased with the current crop of legislators representing them, especially at the state and federal levels. Even some challengers, who got their 15-minutes of fame in the recent midterm election campaign, seem unworthy of being elected.
The recent campaign season, in particular, demonstrated that politics dies indeed make strange bedfellows.
In our neck of the woods, for the third time since 1993, term limits was a ballot question on Tuesday, and it it passed for the third time — by nearly a 3-1 margin.
Term limits, for those who don’t keep abreast of politics, limits City Council legislators and other local elected officials to two four year terms. Nonetheless, it has good and bad provisions. The good specifies that the City Council cannot manipulate term limits for elected officials serving in office. However, if the Council ever has the audacity to change it, as it did at the urging of Mayor Bloomberg in 2008 due to a loophole, it will only affect incoming office holders. The bad is that the new two-term limits only apply to city officials elected after this election since citywide elections will not be held again until 2013.
The law has been enormously popular among the voters, who twice backed the two-term limits rule, in 1993 and again in 1996. Term limits is the reason Mayor Rudolph Giuliani couldn’t run for reelection in 2001, which some New Yorkers gladly welcomed. Mayor Ed Koch was spurned when he tried to change term limits from two to three before the end of his second term.
In the wake of the City Council’s impudence two years ago, nearly 9 in 10 registered voters said they wanted the term limits proposal on the 2009 ballot, but well over half of sitting council members rejected it. At the time, a majority of New Yorkers thought Bloomberg was the best choice to continue to improving conditions citywide. Nonetheless, the City Council should not have unashamedly ignored the will of the voters to vote themselves a third term. Passage of the ballot question prevents that from happening again.
The idea behind the legislation is to limit terms these bottom feeders can deplete the city’s coffers. Knowing his/her time is restricted, elected officials would be under a deadline that hopefully would encourage them to accomplish their goals in a specific time frame before yielding to newcomers with fresh ideas.
The main argument against term limits is — great wisdom (don’t laugh) and experience will be lost when our legislatures undergo a talent drain. That may be true, but that is not a good enough reason to allow those who want to hold on to mini-kingdoms to remain in office too long, especially in Albany where sneaky, backdoor methods have embarrassed New York.
Besides the mood of the local electorate reflects the national one in which a recent poll showed that nearly half of those surveyed said they’d rather elect a candidate with no experience than one who had held office for a decade or more.
Take a look at the national atmosphere this election season. Though changes were expected at midterm, voters here and across the country voiced their anger and frustration with incumbents —whether Democrat or Republican – who got little accomplished. Consequently, dozens were replaced on Tuesday.
  Some studies have shown that without term limits women and minority representation is adversely impacted and allows some incumbents to become politicians for life.
Term limits prevents abuse of power and keeps corruption in check. After all, as we’ve seen recently, and in the past, too many politicians have been indicted or convicted for abusing the power and influence they accumulated while in office to mostly benefit themselves — not constituents.
If they try the term limits runaround again, they might want to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Until politicians regain the trust that was weakened by their underhanded legal tactic, this new referendum should be a loud and clear message to our elected representatives — eight (years) is enough!

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