An odd trio of Conservative Party chairman Mike Long, New York Civic founder Henry Stern and billionaire cosmetics heir Ron Lauder gathered on the steps of City Hall today to start a campaign to make sure that once again local voters decide to institute term limits.
“The voters of the city of New York have voted twice for term limits,” Long said after the press conference. “Three strikes and you’re out- if you don’t listen to the people then you shouldn’t be in office,” he said referring to the previous two decisions.
The three are concerned that the placement of the term limit–on the flip side of the ballot–will mean that many voters ignore it.
“The difficulty is that it’s on the back of the ballot. If people are informed about it though, they’ll know to turn it over and vote yes to question number one,” Long said.
Stern said that he hopes voters recall that the city council overturned their previous expressed will in two citywide referendum.
“What we have here is a moral outrage,” Stern said. “The issue is that the people spoke out twice and the Mayor arrogated it twice.”
Long noted even though the three do not agree on much politically, they came together for this final push on the term limit law.
“We became soulmates on the issue on the very first fight. When the second fight came, we got back together on the issue, and then the last time before the city council overturned it, more people got involved,” Long said. “There were a lot of people who weren’t necessarily people I support or agree with philosophically but we certainly agree on the issue of term limits.”
The city council overturned the law established by previous referendums in 2008, which came in time for Mayor Bloomberg to run for this third four-year term. By extending term limits, Stern argues that the city council members essentially just voted to keep themselves employed for an additional four years.
“It was a question of continuing their salaries which I’m sure they’ll raise at the end of the term because they always do so,” Stern said. “The entire civic community was upset by the run around the council to appeal the two term limit to three. We were upset by it- not so much the result but the technique to do it.”
As the DP reported earlier, Mayor Bloomberg said he would personally be “voting to restore” the referendum, citing his problems with the council’s bill.
“It’s not the bill that I think the commission should have passed,” Bloomberg said. “It’s not the bill I think that most of the members of the commission wanted to pass, but it’s better than what we have now and I committed that we would have that referendum and I personally am going to vote for it.”
Those in opposition to the referendum are not publically campaigning against the issue, but Long suggests that they are using the new electoral form to help further their agenda.
“I think the other side is counting on the fact that the question is on the back of the ballot, it’s not getting much publicity, and people will forget about it,” he said.
New Yorkers for Term Limits, a group financed through individual donations including reportedly million dollar donations by Lauder, created two 10-second television ads. The ads play on the anti-incumbency theme that has been so prevalent in this year’s races, saying “Politicians are so scared of bringing back term limits, they hid the question on the back of the ballot,” and telling voters to “Flip over the ballot. Flip off the politicians”.
Michael Faulkner, the Republican congressional candidate running in a long-shot race against Rep. Charles Rangel, was on the City Hall steps for a previous press conference and he remained to lend his voice to the Long-Lauder-Stern effort.
“The voices of the people were not heard, not only were they not heard but they were overwritten by legislation,” Faulkner said.