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Voters will weigh in on term limits in November

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Voters will get a third chance to make their feelings known on term limits after the City Charter Revision Commission voted this month to put the contentious issue back on the ballot in November.

Through a voter initiative in 1993, a two-term limit for city elected officials was created. In 1996, voters again went to the polls in a referendum and nixed a plan by members of the City Council to extend the limit to three terms.

The term limit debate heated up again in 2008 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg, citing the struggling economy, successfully mounted an effort to extend term limits through a Council law which benefitted himself, the Council members and citywide office holders. In the 2009 city elections, the mayor, a number of Council members and three of the five borough presidents, including Borough President Helen Marshall, ´╗┐were re-elected to a third term.

The commission voted earlier this month to put the issue back in the hands of voters.

While the language of the ballot measure has yet to be determined, the commission passed a resolution for voters to decide whether terms for mayor, public advocate, city comptroller, borough presidents and Council members should revert back to two terms.

The resolution also included a provision prohibiting the Council from making another change through a local law “in a manner that affects the term limit applicable to incumbent officials.”

If voters were to cast ballots in favor of a two-term limit, the change would apply to anyone elected to their first full term on or after Nov. 5, 2013, meaning the potential reversal would not affect incumbent elected officials.

The commission, which was created by Bloomberg earlier in the year, also floated an idea that would make it easier for candidates to run for office.

The commission proposed cutting the number of petition signatures needed to get on the ballot for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president and Council by half.

The commission is scheduled to meet by the end of the month to decide on final proposed amendments and to determine how the questions will be worded on the ballot in November.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 6:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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