Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Extension Accord

In today's NY Sum, the paper reports on the efforts of former speaker Pewter Vallone to extend term limits for the city council: "A former speaker of the City Council, Peter Vallone Sr., is trying to pull together New Yorkers in an organized effort to extend term limits in the council. Mr. Vallone, who represented Astoria, Queens, between 1974 and 2001, says term limits cripple the council's ability to counterbalance the mayor's wing of City Hall. He wants to see term limits abolished altogether, but said he would be open to an effort to extend term limits to three terms, up from two."

And Vallone is absolutely right, even though his timing is probably not the best, given the scandals that have rolied the city's legislature over the discretionary spending funds that have been misused by some members. The mayor does have too much power and the council's term limits have resulted in one term speakers who have found it difficult to balance the best interests of the legislature with the self interests of the body's leadership.

What we've seen is one speaker going over backwards to oppose Mayor Mike, while his successor has headed too much in the opposite direction-often allowing city agencies to make law through regulation rather than through the proper legislative channels. One of the prime examples of this was the allowance given to the city's DOH to pass calorie posting regulations; simultaneously transcending and subverting the council's legislative prerogatives. The current confusion over the regs is a direct the result of the lack of proper council oversight.

In 2005, the council swallowed its whistle when the city went ahead and evicted tenants in the Bronx Terminal Market-without any public hearings on the lease abrogations that would appear to be mandated by the city charter. As a result of this nonfeasance, minority food wholesalers were scattered to the four winds, and city land was deeded to the Related Company for a great deal less than it was worth. The fact that the Bronx delegation had lockjaw on the issue should have given leadership a strong incentive to intervene with strong oversight. Instead the opposite occur ed-with only the "meddling" of Hiram Monseratte giving some support to the lone wolf efforts of Helen Foster to save the market.

Vallone's attempt, while quixotic in our view, should be supported for the next wave of 36 new council members. Here is where city government needs to be fixed; not with the self-serving efforts to extend an imperial mayoralty already suffering from dangerous regal pretensions.