Thursday, October 11, 2007

Limited Sense

In today's papers there are reports that Council Speaker Chris Queen may be considering repealing the city's term limits law. As Quinn coyly tells the NY Daily News: "We haven't taken a final decision yet on what we're doing on term limits...We obviously, myself and my colleagues, have to come to a final decision soon."

The possibility doesn't sit well with the NY Post editorialists who lash out at the prospects of seeing any more of the current term-limited occupants of the 51 council seats: "This is not something for which the public is clamoring. Quite the opposite. As far as the people are concerned, the issue is settled." Probably so, but is it a good idea that shouldn't be reasonably altered?

We think that a change is over due here. When the term limits referendum was first being considered a number of years ago, and we were asked for our opinion, we responded tongue-in-cheek: "While we are philosophically opposed to term limits, we're going to make an exception for this council." Whenever you examine the actual members of the body, as well as its legislative actions, there's always the temptation to say, "Throw the bums out!" The response is, however, a knee-jerk one.

The City Council, as it is currently situated within the City Charter, is considerably less powerful than the mayor. We have a strong executive form of municipal government, and while the two terms is just about right for the mayor, it simply doesn't work for the council-whose members are almost immediately scrambling for new jobs as soon as they assume their current council positions. In addition, with the loss of seniority and continuity the council is fair game for any strong mayor; so much so that the system of checks and balances gets attenuated.

We've seen this on a number of occasions with Speaker Quinn, but to be fair it could easily happen to any speaker whose tenure is so short lived, So if, as the NY Sun also points out, the speaker is seriously considering this, than it should be a policy that is forwarded in the right manner. Coouncilmembers should be granted an additional term, but the new law shouldn't go into effect for the current office holders. This way the principle can be advanced without the cries that the measure is self-interested-insuring that the initiative will be given a more reasoned examination.