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Eric Friedman
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NEW YORK CITY BAR ASSOCIATION OPPOSES TERM LIMITS LEGISLATION

Committee on New York City Affairs Favors Referendum

New York, October 14, 2008 – The New York City Bar Association has issued a statement opposing a proposal that the New York City Council enact a local law permanently changing term limits from two terms to three. Such a law would enable the mayor, 34 council members, four borough presidents and the public advocate, all of whom are facing their last year in office under current law, to run for and serve another term.

Noting that extending term limits to three was defeated by voters in a 1996 referendum, and that the City Bar has consistently opposed changing term limits by legislative action in the City Council, the statement reads:

“It is critically important that voters have confidence that when they vote on a matter, it counts. Taking the decision on a change in term limits away from the voters who have twice voted on them can only serve to engender cynicism regarding the political process, derogate the referendum process and potentially discourage voter participation in the future.  This is particularly so here where a majority of the Council members who would vote on the change are personally affected. It would indeed be a tall order to convince New Yorkers that in taking this matter unto themselves after having been twice affirmed by the voters, that the Council members had only the public interest at heart.  In short, a change in term limits by legislative action would be bad policy, contrary to principles of good government and potentially damaging to our City institutions.”

The statement does acknowledge the current economic crisis and that there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue, citing our “very popular mayor who possesses special expertise in the financial arena and who many feel is best equipped to lead the City through this period, but is precluded by current law from running for another term.”

While these are issues worthy of public debate, the proper way to address a change in the term limits law, according to the City Bar, is through “(i) submission to the voters in another referendum, with time for public education and discussion, (ii) public hearings and consideration of the matter and the precise ballot language in a wide variety of public forums, and (iii) full public disclosure of contributions to campaigns for or against changes in the term limits law.”