Good-Government Group Parts Ways With Quinn

Christine Quinn, who came into the Council speakership as a self-declared reformer, is now coming under fire from one of the oldest good-government organizations in the city, which says it is “disillusioned” with her handling of the term-limits issue.

Citizens Union executive director Dick Dadey released a statement yesterday criticizing Quinn for announcing her support of a legislative proposal by the mayor to allow elected officials to run for three consecutive four-year terms, up from two—before a single public hearing on the matter was held.

The group is also picking up on a recommendation from one of her most vocal critics, Representative Anthony Weiner, by asking her to hold public hearings across the city, rather than just two next week in City Hall. Dadey, who was in City Hall to personally witness Quinn declare her support of the bill yesterday, also noted that this is the second time she’s changed her position on whether or not to change the term-limits law legislatively. In 2005, she was for it; in late 2007, she opposed it; and yesterday, she announced she favors it.

Citizens Union has praised Quinn on a number of occasions, notably when she’s pushed for greater transparency in the legislative and budgeting process in the City Council. Their current reaction represents the organization’s strongest criticism of Quinn since she became speaker in 2006.

On the bright side for Quinn and other members who favor extending term limits legislatively, three New York City newspaper editorial boards declared their support of the bill, with The New York Times—which normally positions itself as the voice of good government—coming out against term limits entirely.

Here is Dadey’s full statement:

Citizens Union is disillusioned in Speaker Chris Quinn’s unfortunate decision to reverse herself yet again and move forward in circumventing the will of the voters by now supporting Council legislation to extend term limits by an additional third term. The Council is a representative body and has the authority to act in such matters, but to disregard the twice expressed views of the voters on this issue is a direct affront to all New Yorkers.

This decision today is also at odds with the Speaker’s past efforts as a reformer and casts a shadow over her otherwise strong record.

It is also disappointing to see her come to this decision without one public hearing yet being held. The only deliberations and discussions held on this matter have been the ones taking place behind closed doors away from the public’s ability to know what is being decided and how.

In taking this new position, the Speaker has now changed her position twice on the matter of term limits. When she was a candidate for Speaker in 2005, she supported the Council taking action. In 2007, she reversed herself and called any Council action on the matter of term limits, “anti-democratic and anti-reform.” For the full text of her remarks, please see below.

With her position now made public that she supports Council action, Citizens Union asks that the Speaker slow down the legislative process and let the public voices not be heard, and hold not just one hearing in Manhattan, but many all across the city. With the Council posed to make significant changes to how our government functions, without the benefit of a public vote, it is important that the Council at least respect the need for all voices to be heard. We are at a loss to know why such a change needs to be made now. Waiting to vote until public hearings are held in all five boroughs would be the right way to go should the Council believe it must act.

Citizens Union has historically opposed term limits, but we also oppose the Council taking action on an issue that the voters should rightly decide.

Good-Government Group Parts Ways With Quinn