By Michael Howard Saul
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is urging the Charter Revision Commission to reject Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preference on a controversial issue involving term limits for elected officials.
De Blasio, who is next in line to become mayor, urged the Charter Revision Commission to defy the mayor’s suggestion that the panel should reconsider awarding incumbents with a special exception that would let them serve three consecutive four-year terms, even if the electorate votes in November for a two-term cap.
“The commission has worked hard to repair the public trust broken by the 2008 City Council vote to extend term limits,” de Blasio wrote in a letter sent to the commission Thursday night. “To upend any of the recommendations on terms limits voted upon by the commission last week would risk reviving the cynicism we all seek to overcome. I urge you and the commission to stand by the decision you reached.”
The Charter Revision Commission, a 15-member panel appointed by Bloomberg to review potential changes to the city constitution, voted last week to give the electorate an opportunity on the Nov. 2 ballot to restore a law that bars elected officials from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms.
But in a move that’s stoked controversy, the commission also approved a so-called grandfather clause that allows current incumbents to serve a maximum of three terms, even if voters decide this fall to restore a cap on two terms.
A day after the panel voted, Bloomberg suggested the commission might reconsider the grandfather clause before the commission takes a final vote on Monday. “Maybe they’ll rethink it,” he said.
Bloomberg, who began his third term in January, said he would “probably” support allowing officials who were in office in 2008 — when he and the council decided to overturn the two-term cap — to be permitted to serve a third-term. “But not anybody that came afterwards,” he insisted.
De Blasio wrote in his letter that he believes the proposal the mayor supports, dubbed by some commission members as a compromise, is wrong-headed. “I am deeply skeptical of a revision to the grandfathering ballot question that would empower elected officials initially elected in 2005 to run for a third term and restrict those first elected in 2009 to two terms,” he wrote.
A spokesman for de Blasio, Wiley Norvell, said the public advocate firmly supports restoring the cap on term-limits to two consecutive four-year terms. De Blasio also personally believes that the voters’ determination on term limits should be effective immediately.
A spokesman for the mayor, Stu Loeser, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The commission was bitterly divided on the question of term limits. It proved to be the most contentious issue at the panel’s meeting last week, and it took four rounds of voting to decide to give special dispensation to all officials currently in office. Some commission members said they are hopeful the issue will be revisited when the panel meets for a final vote next week.
To date, the commission has refused to release a draft of the wording of the actual ballot questions that will be offered to voters in November. An aide said the actual questions will not be released until the panel votes on them on Monday.