Friday, November 19, 2010

New York Civic to Launch Public Referendum to Close "Grandfather" Loophole of Term Limits Law

Good Government Group to Join Councilman Ulrich, Charter Commissioner Cassino and a Coalition of Former City and State Officials to Close “Grandfather” Loophole That Exempts 34 Elected Officials from Two-Term Law

New York Civic, a nonpartisan good government group founded by former NYC Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern, will announce Monday morning on the steps of City Hall that it will pursue a public referendum to eliminate the controversial “grandfather” clause of the recently passed term limits ballot question, which delays the effective date of the law until 2021 and exempts 34 city incumbents from being restricted to two consecutive terms.

Joining New York Civic in undertaking this landmark public referendum will be a grassroots coalition of community leaders and activists, including Councilman Eric Ulrich of Queens, who is one of the 34 elected officials the term limits loophole would benefit; Anthony Perez Cassino, one of the Charter Revision Commissioners who objected to the inclusion of the grandfathering clause in this year’s referendum; former New York State Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey; Director of the Hugh L. Carey Center for Government Reform, former State Senator Seymour P. Lachman; and Michael Meyers, President and Executive Director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. Former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, who will serve as legal counsel in pursing the public referendum, will also be present at the 10 a.m. press conference on November 22nd.

“This referendum is not about term limits, it’s about respecting the will of the people,” explained Henry J. Stern, the founder and president of New York Civic. “It was bad enough that the City Council ignored the voters in 2008 to extend term limits for itself. It is outrageous that, after 74 percent of New Yorkers voted for two terms for the third time in a generation, 34 incumbents can still serve a third term because of a loophole snuck into the last referendum to benefit a handful of officeholders.”

“Although I supported the recently passed term limits referendum, I was very disappointed that the Charter Review Commission created this loophole for me and my colleagues,” stated Councilman Ulrich. “That’s why I am acting, contrary to my self-interest, to restore the trust of the voters who clearly intended for there to be two terms. This referendum will allow us to make things right again.”

"This campaign is about respecting the will of the people and ensuring that their votes count on term limits and their decision stands unless they vote for a change,” said former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, who was the counsel for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit opposing the term limits extension in 2008. “Our local democracy still hasn't recovered from the harm done by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council two years ago to the true two-term limit that the voters twice imposed by referendum and that they have still not had the opportunity to restore. This campaign will finally afford them that opportunity."

Anthony Perez Cassino, one of three members of the Charter Commission to sign a minority report objecting to the grandfather clause, agrees with Councilman Ulrich’s concerns. “The Charter Revision Commission did the right thing by returning term limits to the ballot for the voters to decide, but we didn’t go as far as we needed to regain the trust of the public. Getting rid of the grandfather loophole is the only way to heal the wounds of 2008.”