Queens Councilman Tony Avella is on top of it! Only a few hours after receiving an open letter from 35 Brooklyn Democratic County Committee Members to the City Council opposing the extension of term limits without voter input, Avella wrote back, saying he agrees with us.
Avella, a declared candidate for New York City Mayor, who has pledged to stay in the race no matter how his colleagues decide to vote on term limits, quickly demonstrated a responsiveness to the constituents of Brooklyn that our own Council Members have yet to show.
Though he is perhaps the least known of the Democratic contendors for Mayor, Avella has repeatedly distinguished himself of late as the candidate who is perhaps the most deserving of our party's nomination. He has stood up to Speaker Quinn and the Mayor on many issues where rank-and-file Council Members demured from ruffling feathers, most notably the atrocious slush fund scandal. He has also been a leader on animal rights issues and is a favorite of the League of Humane Voters of New York City, an advocacy organization Mr. and Mrs. Brooklyn Optimist strongly support. He even has the best attendance record of any City Council Member.
But enough about Tony. Here's his letter:
Dear Brooklyn Democratic County Committee Members:
Thank you for your October 10th email indicating your support for term limits. Rest assured, I completely agree with you.
The people of New York City have indicated not once, but twice their firm support for two-four year terms for City officials. Their wishes could not have been clearer.
I believe it is a betrayal of the public trust if the Mayor and the City Council vote to overturn/extend term limits. By campaigning for public office, we made a covenant with the people that we accepted term limits – eight years and out. Any attempt to amend the term limits law breaks that covenant.
I have already publicly stated that even if they succeed, I will not serve a third term – I will not break the covenant with the voters.
Changing the law to allow anyone particular person to stay in office, not matter how popular that person maybe, is simply wrong. That is the day we take a step towards dictatorship.
I will vehemently oppose any attempt to overturn/extend the term limits law.
In order to stop this action, I just introduced in the City Council, Resolution #1640, which basically asks the State Legislature to step in and mandate that a public referendum be conducted to change the term limits law. Attached below is a more complete description/explanation of my bill.
Reso. 1640/2008 – Term Limits Mandatory Referendum Resolution
Council Member Avella’s resolution calls upon the State legislature to adopt legislation amending the State Municipal Home Rule Law (MHRL) to give the City the authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to voter referendum. Even if the City fails to take action to change the Charter, once the State acts their action governs what the City is required to do – in other words mandate a public referendum.
The State MHRL, Article 3 §23, and the New York City Charter, Chapter 2 §38, both set forth a list of actions that can only be accomplished by voter referendum. This resolution will ask the New York State Legislature to amend the MHRL to add to this list of actions that require mandatory voter referendum any action which amends, in any manner, term limits laws.
Council Member Avella’s Reso. 1640 is phrased to “give the City authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to referendum” but the practical effect of the State’s requested action would be to amend the MHRL which would affect term limits laws from all municipalities throughout the state.
A Resolution to the State is the only way in which the City can effectively change its own Charter provisions on this issue, since the state law preempts local law in this area. Therefore the State must act first before the city can amend its own Charter provision and any local law attempting to change the Charter on this issue would be ineffective before the State gives the City the authority to act.
As a matter of public policy the City Council should not be vested with the sole power to extend the length of its members terms by legislation alone and it is therefore necessary to amend these sections of the Charter in order to preserve a balance between the right of the Council to carry out its legislative functions and the right of voters to have their expressed will carried out by the legislature.