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Working Families targets Council reps

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More than a dozen members of the Working Families Party hit the streets in City Councilwoman Melinda Katz’s (D−Forest Hills) district last Thursday afternoon to garner as many signatures as they could against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid to change the city term limits law through legislation instead of a voter referendum.

“The public has already voted on term limits twice,” Greg Walker, a Working Families canvasser, said of the vote to set the limit in a 1993 referendum and a 1996 vote that reaffirmed the 1993 decision. “I’m sure Bloomberg would do a great job if he was in office again, but it’s not his decision. It’s the people’s decision.”

Canvassers collected hundreds of signatures, which they delivered last Thursday evening to Katz’s district office on Metropolitan Avenue.

Working Families Party spokesman Dan Levitan said party employees and volunteers have collected more than 10,000 signatures on their Web site, www.itsourdecisions.org, and from individuals in 10 districts represented by Council members who have not yet said whether they will back the mayor’s bid or not.

Katz was unavailable for comment for this article, though her aide, Vicky Morales, said the councilwoman “hasn’t made a decision at this moment.”

“She’s looking at all the information before she makes a decision,” Morales added.

Katz has assured residents she is still running for city comptroller, currently held by mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

“Despite the uncertainty around term limits, I want to reassure you I am still running for comptroller as I have been doing for the past two years,” Katz said in a statement on her Web site. “The current economic crisis has deepened my conviction that I have the skills, experience and will to help lead our city through this difficult time.”

Party canvassers also staged petitions in the areas represented by City Councilmen Peter Vallone (D−Astoria), James Sanders Jr. (D−Laurelton) and Tom White (D−South Ozone Park). They plan to collect signatures in the districts of other undecided Council members, like Helen Sears (D−Jackson Heights) and Hiram Monserrate (D−Corona).

Jesse Taylor, a party employee, said the majority of residents he spoke with on Metropolitan Avenue and in other districts wanted the term limits decision to be decided by voters and not through legislation.

“There were a lot of people who wanted to even write profanity on the petition,” Taylor said. “People are really mad about this.”

According to a NY1 poll conducted last week, about 75 percent of polled New Yorkers said they want to decide whether or not to grant Bloomberg’s wish to change the city term limits law so he can run for re−election for the second time.

Bloomberg’s second term will conclude at the end of 2009, but the mayor has argued the city needs his expertise as a former CEO to navigate the downfall from the current financial crisis.

The full Council is not expected to vote on the proposed legislation until next Thursday, at the earliest.

Should council members approve legislation to tack another term onto the current limits, Levitan said he thinks even incumbents could have something to worry about come election time.

“We think voters could well punish the people who come down on the side of doing this legislativ­ely,” he said.

Residents who spoke with party canvassers in Forest Hills said they were disappointed to hear of the call to extend term limits.

“Bloomberg can’t do this,” said Ron Algiere of Forest Hills. “He’s making up his own laws. The guy’s killing the middle class. I’m a middle−class property owner and he’s slaughtering us.”

Adolfo Redillo of Richmond Hill agreed with Algiere.

“Bloomberg has served enough time,” he said. “You have to give new people with new ideas a chance.”

City Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) is co−sponsoring a bill mandating a term limit change be put to a voter referendum. City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) has thrown his weight behind requiring a referendum to decide whether or not to add a third four−year term to current limits.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300 Ext 174.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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