Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Door slams shut on NYC term limits

Like when someone is dying from a long illness, you might fully expect it but it still hurts when the day arrives.

On April 28, a federal appeals court dismissed the lawsuit against New York City's overturning of the term limits law duly enacted and then reaffirmed by popular referenda in 1993 and 1996. After internal polling showed voters would yet again affirm term limits again in 2008, Mayor Bloomberg -- who desperately wanted to serve a third term -- decided to simply ignore the earlier referenda and lengthened term limits from 8 to 12 years via a simple council vote. Oh yes, it lengthened the terms of the council too. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

As this move nullified two citizen referenda, a group of citizens rose up to fight it in the courts. As summarized by the New York Times, they had three main arguments:

  1. The term-limits extension violated First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because it did not allow voters to be part of the decision and because it was approved by the same elected officials who will benefit from it.
  2. It violated a state law that mandates a referendum to modify or annul any law enacted by one.
  3. It violated the city’s conflict of interest regulations because it conferred a political benefit to the elected officials who approved it.
No dice, the Second Circuit Court said Tuesday. But the court did recognize that "[s]ome feel that [governor and city council's action] disregards the will of the people as expressed by the 1993 Voter Initiative and 1996 Referendum" and that this "may be a justifiable reaction."

Yes, the court is right about that much.