The Oct. 30. TimesLedger editorial Democracy Is Alive and Well in NYC, referring to the City Councils vote extending term limits, should, if more in tune with the facts, be labeled The Death of Democracy.
The same TimesLedger issue that carried the editorial discussed above also contained a letter by Council members Helen Sears (D?Jackson Heights) and Leroy Comrie (D?St. Albans), both scheduled to be term limited out of office in 2009 and who voted to extend their own terms. Their claim that their vote benefitted the voters and the reasons therefore are so unconvincing that it cannot go unchallenged:
1. The claim that they listened carefully to the arguments at the hearings and their decision was not made easily is doubtful. If they listened to the vast majority of the speakers who opposed the Council extending their own terms, it was with deaf ears.
2. Both admit they do not approve of term limits, but it was term limits that created the vacancy that gave them their seats. If term limits are so abhorrent to them as a matter of principle, they should not have sought the office to begin with. Having taken the seats, knowing they were to be term limited and now extending their own terms makes them hypocrites.
Equally hypocritical are Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D?Manhattan), who also got their offices because of term limits and vowed never to seek to tamper with limits.
3. The claim that more than 1 million people, whose voices were heard in two referendums, were so lacking in intelligence that they did not know what they were doing, will come not only as a surprise, but an insult to the people.
4. The claim that money allows for manipulation and undermines the democratic process alludes to the fact that Ronald Lauder, a man not seeking any public office, paid for advertisements to educate the public on the issue of term limits. Sears and Comrie need to be reminded that Bloomberg, when seeking office originally, spent more than $180 million and is reported to be ready to spend another $80 million to seek a third term.
5. Perhaps the most unbelievable claim made by Sears and Comrie is that two terms in office is an inadequate length of time to learn the legislative process and voters should have the benefit of their experience and give them a third term.
There is a difference between the Council legislating votes on changes in the City Charter, as offered by Sears and Comrie, to support their position and actions that are self?dealing. It will not escape the publics attention that they could have voted for an extension to become effective after they leave office but did not do so.
The claim that by the Council extending term limits the voters were simply being given choices, flies in the face of the fact that voters did have the ultimate choice in referendums and twice voted in favor of term limits.
Benjamin M. Haber