Term-Limits Hearings: Thompson Thunders, Velazquez Jokes

More from intern Glenna Goldis at the Council term-limits hearings:

The second set of testimony on term limits today included Comptroller Bill Thompson, who yesterday said he would run for mayor even if it meant challenging Bloomberg. Several times, the audience began to clap but then stifled itself to avoid censure from the chair.

But there were other testifying officials who received more attention from the Council.

Representative Nydia Velazquez, who testified first, said that times of crisis were exactly when the electoral process needed to be respected. She said that the proposed legislation to allow term-limited incumbents to run for an extra term would hurt minority opportunities for office, which could in turn draw a veto from the federal justice department.

“The only ones who benefit from this are self-funded incumbents,” she said.

Thompson spoke next. In a relatively original tack, he made an economics-based argument against Bloomberg, saying that we should be focusing on the city’s fiscal health instead of “debating an issue that shouldn’t even be on the table.” Extending term limits, he said, showed a “stunning lack of faith in New Yorkers.”

“The foundation of our democracy is trust,” he concluded, and overturning the results of referendums would hurt that.

Councilman Charles Barron asked Thompson a softball question about what a new mayor might do in this economy. Thompson offered examples including organizing public-works programs and seeking help from federal officials, including, potentially, a President Barack Obama.

Alan Gerson asked Thompson, in the comptroller’s capacity as “the city’s brilliant financial steward,” how much a special election would cost. Thompson said his office had not calculated it, and provided a catchy, if canned, non-answer: “Is there a price tag on democracy?”

Next on the panel were members of the State Assembly. Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx, who opposes the legislation, emphasized that his position was “not an indictment against the current City Council.”

Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn said of Bloomberg that the financial crises “unfolded on his watch,” to which there were muffled laughs.

Pro-legislation members repeatedly challenged the state politicians as to how, essentially, they would act in situations similar to the Council members’.

Lewis Fidler asked the state legislators whether it was wrong when its body overrode popular will in the past. The legislators didn’t seem to think the question was relevant to them, as they were not part of those decisions; Fidler noted that neither of them had answered his question.

Felder asked Jeffries, Diaz and Velazquez if they would support referendums on term limits for their own positions.

“It’s a joke,” Velazquez said, “but if we can get it done, so be it. But it’s a joke!”

She eventually said she would not support the idea. She had, presumably, been joking.