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.

1 comment:

Phil Kerpen said...

Voting no and running anyway is the biggest fraud and embarrassment of all. Why vote no if you're going to run again except to deceive voters? You either respect the referendum or not.

I just wish you were a strong supporter of term limits instead of relying exclusively on the process arguments. The fact they can do something this egregious and still win because of the power of incumbency shows term limits are needed more than ever.