Astoria City Councilman Peter Vallone finds himself wedged between a rock and a hard place on the issue of whether the City Council should vote to extend term limits in time for next year's elections. If this happens, a charter revision committee could put the issue before the city voters at a later time.
Vallone made it clear he has long been in favor of allowing city officials to run for a third term.
"I've always thought an eight-year limit was bad for the city," he said. "It's bad structurally because it does not allow the Council to be an effective check and balance against the mayor. It's bad for planning because capital projects take five to six years to complete. And it's bad for individual elected officials, who are forced to start seeking a new job once they are elected."
Correct. Council members spend the first four years trying to figure out how the confounded system works and the next four trying to figure out what they will do when their second term expires. Allowing Council members to run for a third term would ensure that there would be senior legislators with experience to guide newly elected members.
But Vallone is uncomfortable with the Council making the change, even though the City Charter allows for it.
A referendum this late is not an option. Vallone notes that even if there was time to schedule a referendum before next year's city elections, the turnout would be minimal and the vote would cost as much as $15 million.
Is it not possible that a vote by Council members would be more democratic than a referendum with minimal turnout? Members should know how their districts feel about term limits and what will best serve district interests.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected after the worst crisis this city has ever faced. With the exception of rebuilding Ground Zero, the mayor helped the city move forward.
The city is now facing a different crisis. The Wall Street collapse will take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the city budget. Tough decisions will need to be made. Giving the voters the chance to decide if they want Bloomberg back for four more years only makes sense.
It is time for Vallone to get off the fence.
©2008 Community News Group
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