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City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) attacked City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D−Manhattan) for backing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to extend tem limits, claiming she and the mayor deliberately waited until it was too late for voters to have a say on the issue.
“She was always behind the scenes manipulating,” Avella said Tuesday, five days after Quinn made an about−face on her position on term limits.
“The one surprise was the mayor,” he said, referring to Bloomberg’s Oct. 2 announcement that he would seek a change to the law so he and other city elected officials could run for a third term.
Quinn, who as early as one year ago said she was against changing the term limits law, acknowledged she was reversing her views.
“This decision is not one that I take lightly and has come with a great deal of deliberation, dialogue and debate,” she said in a statement. “We are facing a global economic crisis that has led to unprecedented challenges for our city. Indications are those challenges will continue to grow more severe.”
Bloomberg also cited economic turmoil in his decision to change the city’s term limits law that now precludes the mayor and Council members from seeking a third term.
But Avella said the crisis was not a valid reason to change the law.
“Every dictator that ever came to power used this excuse,” he said. “Another four years from now, [Bloomberg] will claim another crisis.”
The proposal also faced criticism from City Councilmen David Weprin (D−Hollis) and John Liu (D−Flushing) and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills), who contended that if the term limits law is to be changed, it should come through a voter referendum instead of legislation.
“What makes this smell and look even worse is that they’re rushing this through,” Liu said. “The world is not falling apart that we need to change the rules at the 11th hour.”
Weiner said public hearings on term limits scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Manhattan should be expanded to the outer boroughs.
“New Yorkers around the city deserve hearings in their boroughs, and a normal process for considering this important legislation,” he said.
Both Avella and Weiner are running for mayor.
Avella said he would not run for his Council seat if the term limits law is changed.
The mayor said it is too late to put a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot and doing so next year would be too confusing.
Like the mayor, Quinn said changing the term limits law would give voters a greater choice when they go to the polls next year.
“To extend term limits legislatively gives New Yorkers a choice at the polls next year, the opportunity to vote for me or any of my colleagues or Mike Bloomberg for another four years — or to make a change. That’s the essence of democracy.”
But Liu said that argument does not carry water because voters twice chose to keep term limits.
“It’s like taking away people’s choice to give them a choice,” he said. “The issue is not term limits, it’s not Michael Bloomberg, the issue is the fundamental basis of lawmaking and upholding integrity of our referendum process. The referendum process is a check on the formal legislative process.”
An item in Page Six citing City Hall insiders said Quinn is not going to run for re−election to her Council seat if the law is changed because her colleagues are disenchanted with her and will not re−elect her speaker.
Instead, the report claimed, she would become a deputy mayor under Bloomberg.
Quinn’s office did not respond to an e−mail requesting comment on the Page Six story.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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