Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Term Limits-- taking it to the 'battle field'

Councilmembers James and de Blasio Announce Preparations for Term Limits Law Suits

City Hall – Today, Councilmembers Bill de Blasio and Letitia James, joined by Congressman Anthony Weiner, Comptroller Bill Thompson, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Councilmember Charles Barron, Gene Russianoff of NYPIRG, attorney Randy Mastro, and other elected officials, held a press conference on last week's term limits vote.

Councilmembers de Blasio and James are preparing to take legal action once the bill is signed into law; Mayor Bloomberg has scheduled a bill-signing ceremony for next Monday.

"Public involvement in the democratic process must not be taken lightly, or treated as some kind of "luxury." New Yorkers twice voiced their opinions on term limits, and last week their will was subverted. This fight is far from over. We will continue to stand up for the right of the people to be involved in this vital process, and ensure their voices are heard." said Councilmember Bill de Blasio.

State law, local law, and voting rights guaranteed under the US Constitution require that a mandatory referendum be held on this issue. Councilmembers de Blasio and James have authorized their lawyers to prepare a lawsuit to challenge the legality of changing voter-ratified term limits by legislation. They have also authorized their lawyers to review the legal infirmities and adverse impacts on minority participation that will result from this major change by legislation to the local electoral system, and to continue to pursue claims that the vote blatantly violated local conflict of interest laws.

"Last week's Council vote represents a step backward for democracy in this city. It is my right, and duty, as a representative of the people to question the legality of altering voter-ratified term limits via legislation. In voting to extend term limits legislatively, our government completely disregarded the will of New Yorkers. The voters who elected us to serve them deserve better, and I will continue the fight to ensure their voices are heard loud and clear," said Councilmember Letitia James.

"It is imperative to pursue this course of action on behalf of the voters of this city. I believe that voters' rights were clearlydenied and suppressed," said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. "The foundation of good government is trust, and that trust was shattered. People must trust that when they cast their vote, it will count. Historically, when such trust is breached, we turn to the courts to seek justice. Just because the New York City Council failed to hear our voice does not mean we will back down. We will continue to stand up against those who undermine the people's will, and come together with one voice and a common purpose: to restore faith in the process."

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, "I, along with countless New Yorkers, am deeply disappointed by the Council's vote. This could have happened the right way, allowing the people to vote as they have twice before, but instead it was decided by a small few who would also benefit from the change. New Yorkers will not forget this disregard of the democratic process. I support the effort of Councilmembers de Blasio and James to pursue legal action; we will continue this fight."

"There are so many legal infirmities with this process that it cries out for a judicial remedy," said Randy Mastro. "We are fortunate that the courts are there when our local elected officials fail us."

"Nearly 90 percent of New Yorkers want to vote on term limits, not have their Council Members vote to extend their own terms. If ever we needed the courts as a check and balance on the legislature and executive, it is now," said Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney for NYPIRG.


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