This year New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and a few other
Councilmembers may be forced out early because of a term limits law
holding City elected officials to "two successive terms" (with the
admitted but unsaid intent of limiting tenure to not more than eight
years, i.e two four-year terms).
But alas and alack for the pols and in recognition of predictable
controversies involving redrawn district boundaries after each census,
some Council terms are kept to two years.
Accordingly, for some Members with terms expiring this year, "two
terms" add up to just six years: one two year term and one four year
Last year, the Council passed clarifying legislation, and overrode a
Mayoral veto of it, making plain that a Councilmember may serve up to
eight years. Accordingly, six-year incumbent Miller would be allowed
to stand this year for another short (two-year) term.
Now the "clarification" has been challenged in court. Can a mere
Council-passed law trump a referendum? Unless the state's Court of
Appeals upholds the Council, Miller and some others must say bye-bye.
For Miller this would damage his chances for the Dems nod to run
against Republican Bloomberg in 2005. Running in the primary as a pol
out of office, out of power would be naturally less effective than
running from the powerful, high-profile Speaker's office.
A decision is expected by June.
Term limits was a mid-90's brainchild of Ronald Lauder, a disappointed
Republican aspirer to the Mayoralty, Reagan's one-time Ambassador to
Austria and an heir to his mother's cosmetics fortune. He floated a
referendum, paid for the advertising himself and won it. Subsequently,
Giuliani floated another referendum to allow for three terms. City
voters said "nyet" to the liberalization. This was some years before
9/11 and the canonization of St. Rudy.
A lot of us thought Lauder's referendum was vengeance on Giuliani, his
fellow Republican and nemesis.
In principle, I'm against term limits. But in '01 it refreshed City
government with a flood of new faces who reflect far better than the
old gang the ethnic composition of the city today. And that's all to
the good. But the change floated by the present Council is just and
I'm for it. Jim Smith------------------------