New Yorkers could get the chance to vote on term limits for the fourth time in 20 years next November.
That’s the hope of a group seeking to restore the two-term limit for sitting city elected officials by creating a ballot question that would close a loophole in the Charter Revision Commission initiative voters passed this year.
That ballot question was designed to let voters decide whether they wanted a two-term or three-term limit on elected officials.
City voters overwhelmingly decided to reduce the limits to two terms permanently. However, the measure had a clause that exempted the limit from going into effect until 2021.
Good government group New York Civic and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), among others, say that loophole is against the spirit of what New Yorker’s were voting for.
“I know some of my colleagues won’t be happy with me, but this the right thing to do,” said Ulrich, who is so far the only council member to join the initiative. “The voters expressed three times that they want two terms for city officials and they got gypped again.”
New York Civic Director Henry Stern, a former city parks commissioner, and Ulrich are joined by Anthony Perez Cassino, a member of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission, former state Sen. Seymour Lachman, former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, former Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, Michael Meyers, the president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition in spearheading the cause.
To get the proposal on the ballot for November, the group would need to collect 30,000 signatures in the first round of petitioning and 15,000 in the second.
If the effort succeeds, it will be only the second public referendum brought before voters in New York City history, after the 1993 initiative that initially established term limits.
Ulrich believes it can be done.
“In a democracy, people should have the right to be able to put things on a ballot; that’s the purest form of democracy,” he said. “I think we can get enough signatures.”
Ulrich said the drive to gather the necessary signatures will likely begin in the new year.
Stern, a longtime advocate of government reform, added that the will of the voters must be respected.
“The public voted for term limits three times, but the incumbents managed to wiggle out whenever the sands start running out on their tenure,” he said in a statement. “We want to finally chop the head off the snake.”