Term limits is the first of two questions on the ballot, approved by the city's Charter Revision Commission, to be taken up by voters on Election Day.
Question 1 proposes to amend the City Charter by reducing the number of term limits for elected officials from three to two. The change would apply to those officials elected in or after the 2010 general elections, and would be protected from overrule by the City Council.
The last part is critical, because that's what got us into this mess in the first place.
In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg persuaded the Council to pass a law extending term limits, overturning a pair of 1990's voter referendums that limited officials to two four-year terms.
It was a brazen power play by an arrogant billionaire-turned-politician that made a mockery of democracy. The debate over term limits that ensued dominated last year's mayoral race and nearly cost Bloomberg his reelection. (He avoided defeat by financing the most expensive municipal campaign in this country's history).
In the process of buying votes he lost the respect of millions.
That will never change, but the term limits law can. And it should.
Question 1 does have its critics. Their main argument is that the provision to grant incumbent lawmakers the chance for a third term was an unnecessary loophole. Even some commissioners who helped craft the proposal admit “grandfathering” in current lawmakers was a mistake.
Let's be clear: this is political payback by the mayor for council members who voted in favor of extending term limits two years ago. Remember, the mayor fought efforts to strike the provision when the subject was broached by the “independent” charter revision commission earlier this year.
Yes, it's political horse-trading at its very worst. But what can we do?
The whole deal has been an ugly display of one man's ego-trip from the very start. Bloomberg decided he was above the law- or at least not above changing it to suit his purposes- and the city has been paying the consequences ever since.
Today, we remember well which council members had the courage to vote against extending term limits, and the campaign promises the mayor made to justify a third term in office.
But decades from now, New Yorkers will recall Bloomberg as the guy who did the term limits thing (and in addition, if he's lucky, as the mayor who took control of the city's school, and built some parks, and condos for rich folks).
Question 1 is about more than the mayor, of course. It concerns important questions about the effectiveness of local elected officials, and the length of time they should be given to try and make an impact on their districts.
Still, it is an important opportunity for residents of this city to restore order and dignity to our political process, and by so doing, send Bloomberg a powerful message.