Thursday, October 23, 2008

A disappointing day, for democracy in NYC, and for me

This afternoon, the New York City Council voted to enact a bill into law that would extend term limits to 3 terms, thereby enabling Mayor Michael Bloomberg, other citywide leaders, and themselves to run as incumbents next year.

This was done by a vote of 29-22, overturning not one but 2 public referenda, from 1993 and 1996, on the question of term limits. This was done despite a poll 2 days ago that indicated that a whopping 89% of New Yorkers wanted a voter referendum on term limits if the law was to change.

I sit here, devastated that my recent efforts and the efforts of thousands of New Yorkers to defeat this undemocratic bill have not succeeded. While there will be legal challenges to this decision, it will most likely stand, locking out voters on the term limits issue.

It also affects my own political career pretty profoundly. There is a trickle down effect now: Mayor Bloomberg with his billions will run again for mayor, meaning comptroller Bill Thompson will most likely drop out of the Mayoral race and run as an incumbent for Comptroller, meaning my current councilman, David Weprin, will most likely drop out of the Comptroller's race and run as an incumbent for City Council, which leaves me, well, out in the cold.

I could still run, of course, but I'd be running against an incumbent who has already raised $1.2 million dollars, has a wide support base, and, most important, has done a good job in the district. He even voted "no" on today's horrible bill. So to run against David would be politically and practically foolish.

But somehow I feel cheated. They changed the rules on me midway through the game, and it's not fair. When I was on Paradise Hotel, a 2003 reality tv show, the rules changed midway through the game. But it was never supposed to be a fair game. It was a tv show- not real life.
This is real life, and I spent the last 12 months of my life planning a campaign for an open seat on the Council- fundraising, hosting events, reaching out to hundreds of friends and family throughout the country to support me in this venture. That whole time, I played by the rules- and the now the Mayor and Council have flipped the script on me, and on 150 citywide candidates for Council in '09.

This Council vote was a message to the 89% of New Yorkers that asked for a referendum on term limits. That message: F- you, we know better than you- and we're indispensable. It was also a message to the 150 people running for City Council: F- you, we know better than you, and we're indispendable.

The decision to not give the public a vote on term limits will sour many New Yorkers even further about politics and government, and a cynical young public, on it way to optimism and less cynicism throught the exciting 2008 National campaign season, will sadly revert back to the skeptical view that their vote doesn't matter.

It didn't matter this time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Testimony Before City Council on Changing Term Limits Legislatively

I had an incredible experience yesterday, waiting for 8 hours to speak at City Hall and then eventually delivering 2 minutes of testimony before the Council's Government and Operations Committee. It was times quite exhilarating and uplifting and at times quite frustrating and depressing. The following is my entire testimony:

Written Testimony for the New York City Council
Submitted by Dave Kerpen, 25226 60th Ave, Little Neck, NY 11362

Good afternoon. My name is Dave Kerpen. I am a Queens resident, a former public school teacher, a business owner, and a Democratic candidate for New York City Council next year. Most important, I am a husband and father to 2 little girls. As someone interested in politics and government at all levels- I often talk to my 5 year old daughter Charlotte about the issues in language that she can understand. For example, she is looking forward to coming with me next month to vote for ‘Orock Obama’ and she knows that people in the City Council help to make the schools better and sidewalks cleaner.
A few weeks ago, she saw me reading about the current term limits discussion, and so I explained to Charlotte that the rules may change, so that the Mayor of New York and other leaders like the City Council can stay in their jobs for 4 more years. She responded, and I quote, “Oh. When do we get to vote on that, Daddy?”
It is embarrassing that I had to explain to my 5 year old that we may not vote on that issue. It is embarrassing that there is even a debate over whether this should be done legislatively or via voter referendum. It is embarrassing that Michael Bloomberg called a legislative change in term limits “disgusting” just a few years ago and then introduced this bill. It is embarrassing - and really quite sad - that Bloomberg has gone from being a fearless leader beholden to no party and no special interest– to a politician ignoring the will of the people with one undemocratic, purely political maneuver.
I am philosophically against term limits. But the issue before you isn’t about term limits. It’s about how they should change if they are to change– by a vote of the 51 of you- or a vote open to all New Yorkers. It’s about democracy versus political maneuvering.
I fully understand that it may be legal for you to change term limits law despite the fact that New Yorkers voted otherwise, twice. But is it moral? Is it the right thing to do, to vote on the potential to extend your own jobs when New Yorkers have twice voted against this? Can a self-interested Mayor and City Council possibly be a better, fairer group to vote on this than the people of New York in a special election?
I have great respect for public servants and for the political process. In fact, I have been told on numerous occasions by people that obviously don’t share that same respect- to not to go into politics because it’s too dirty – When I’m told that, I respond that I’m happy to still be an idealist- and I believe there are a lot of good, honest people in politics, in New York and beyond.
I know some of you, and I so I know there are a lot of good, honest people in this room. I am proud that my City Councilman, David Weprin, has been a fervent opponent of the bill introduced by the Mayor, and that as of today, nearly 20 of you have publicly joined with David in this opposition. To those of you who are still publicly undecided, I urge you to consider joining those who oppose Bloomberg’s Bill – because the will of the people must not be ignored, because this issue – and those of you on each side of the bill- will not be soon forgotten by the people of New York – and most of all, because it is the right thing to do.
Thank you for your time, and I am confident you will do the right thing, and let New Yorkers vote on term limits. I hope in a few weeks I can tell my 5 year old daughter that we will, in fact, be getting to vote on that thing we talked about.

P.S. Special thanks to Councilman Robert Jackson, who despite seemingly being in favor of this bill, has courageously joined my Facebook group, New Yorkers for Our Vote to Count, opposing the bill on Facebook at least. :-)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Few Good Guys and Gals in the Council (on Term Limits, at least)

Yesterday, I started a Facebook group, New Yorkers for Our Vote to Count.

My hope is that enough New Yorkers will join this group that the City Council will have to consider the needs and opinion of their constituents they are paid to serve.

Today I attended a press conference organized by The People Have Spoken coalition and Norman Siegel. A few dozen people turned out and several networks and publications were there to witness people asking for a voice in the term limits discussion, so that Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council don't decide for themselves to allow (themselves) a 3rd term in office.

The good news? In an article from yesterday's New York Times, several members of the City Council expressed their intentions to introduce different bills that would give the voters a special referendum to decide on term limits. The good guys so far: Bill DeBlasio, Leticia James, David Weprin, John Liu, and Tony Avella.

This issue has really gotten be fired up- and obviously I am self-interested party too- as an '09 Council hopeful- but the more I've thought about it- the more upset I've gotten. It's really disgusting that there's even a debate over whether voters should have a say on this or not. I don't think I want to be a part of a legislative body that would blatantly disregard the will of voters in order to stay in office and keep the Mayor in office.

Stay tuned.