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Council candidates angry at term-limits challenge

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Led by Bayside activist and city council candidate Joyce Shepard,...

By Kathianne Boniello and Adam Kramer

In a bizarre war between the political old and new, a group of 13 city council candidates have joined forces to oppose efforts by some incumbents to overturn the city’s term limits law.

Led by Bayside activist and city council candidate Joyce Shepard, “The New 22” plans to challenge the city council incumbents who are working to kill the term limits law that will bar them from running for re-election in November.

Shepard is trying to round up 22 candidates for the City Council as a counterpoint to what she calls “The Old 22” members who want to reverse term limits. But only 13 candidates have joined in her effort so far, and it now appears that 23 sitting council members are prepared to back the move to end the term limits legislation.

Approved in two voter referendums in 1993 and 1996, the city’s term limits law forces city council representatives to step down after two consecutive terms. The entire Queens council delegation will be forced out in November’s election and several key committee chairmanships will be lost.

If the term limits bill is not repealed, 35 of the 51 council members will not be permitted to seek re-election. Many political observers have said there will be a huge void left in the council in 2001 as the freshmen council members get up to speed.

Shepard said the New 22 would take to the streets in the districts of incumbent council members who are supporting efforts to overturn the law, distributing fliers about the proposed legislation. Shepard is one of eight candidates running for City Councilman Mike Abel’s (R-Bayside) seat.

“In the next few weeks we’re going to let the Old 22 know that they have somebody to contend with,” said Shepard. “We’re organized and outraged. We’re going to go to the people — to the streets so they can never be elected again. That’s what I’m doing it for.”

Jeanine Kemm, a spokeswoman for the group New Yorkers for Term Limits, said she was aware of the New 22 and expressed support for the group.

“We think that if they are trying to stand up against the scheme, it’s an absolutely positive thing,” said Kemm. “I get calls from candidates all the time who are up in arms” about the effort to overturn the term limits law.

Some of the Queens council members who have come out against term limits are Walter McCaffrey (D-Woodside), John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), Helen Marshall (D-E. Elmhurst), Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton) and Julia Harrison (D-Flushing).

Saundra Pope, a candidate for Councilman Archie Spigner’s (D-St. Albans) seat, said “we are proud to join together and stand up to the 22 proponents of the repeal of term limits. Instead of attempting to overturn the voice of the people, they should be focusing on bills that would make New York City a better place to live in.”

Norbert Chwat, who is running for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s (D-Forest Hills) seat, also expressed his anger at efforts to overturn the term limits law.

“It is sad for me to watch the city council members’ attempt to fulfill their personal desires while showing a lack of respect for the traditions of this country,” he said. “This arrogance contributes to the breaking down of our moral structure.”

Shepard said Queens candidates who have expressed support for the New 22 include: Pope; Chwat; Evergreen Chou and Richard Jannaccio, who are running for Harrison’s seat; John Ciafone, who is running for Council Speaker Peter Vallone’s (D-Astoria) seat; and David Reich, who is running for Councilman Morton Povman’s (D-Forest Hills).

The bill to repeal term limits was scheduled to be heard Thursday by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations. It is expected that the bill will receive enough votes in the committee to be put before the entire council.

According to a survey by the nonprofit Citizens Union Foundation and The New York Times, there are 23 council members who will vote to repeal the term limit law and 20 who will vote against the bill. The remaining eight council members are still undecided on how they will vote when the bill comes before the council.

The bill needs 26 votes to pass in the Council and to be sent to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. If the mayor vetoes the bill, the City Council needs 43 votes to override the veto, which at this stage is unlikely to happen.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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