Bloomberg Signs Law Extending Term Limits

Critics speak at bill signing

"Please Mr. Mayor, do not subvert the will, and the good will, of 8 million New Yorkers," said Patty Hagan of Brooklyn. "Do not lift that pen and do not sign this disgraceful term-limits extender bill."

After four hours of public comment, Bloomberg said he had heard the "diversity of opinion" but was going to sign the bill.

"There's no easy answer and nobody is irreplaceable, but I do think that if you take a look at the real world of how long it takes to do things ... I just think that three terms makes more sense than two," he said.

It was just one month ago that the mayor announced he was reversing his long-held opinion that the law should not be changed, and said he would try to extend it because he wanted another four years. He argued that the city needs him to stay in office and manage its finances through the economic downturn.

The council held two hearings and narrowly passed the legislation on Oct. 23, which gives the mayor and dozens of other officeholders the option of running for a third term. Under the previous law, they were limited to two consecutive four-year terms, which would have forced Bloomberg and two-thirds of the council out of office next year.

The mayor had said that he did not listen to the testimony from those council hearings. He had no other choice on Monday, because the city must allow public comment at its official bill signings.

Typically, just one or two people show up to speak about a bill, but on Monday, there were about 140 people representing both sides of the issue. Those who stood in line for hours included regular people, elected officials, community leaders and lawyers who say they are planning legal challenges against the new law.

Opponents told the mayor he still had a chance to let the voters decide. They ticked off what they said were his weaknesses as mayor, portraying him as a champion of over-development who has neglected working class New Yorkers and cares only about the concerns of his wealthy friends.

Jimmy McMillan, a Vietnam veteran who said he plans to run for mayor next year, spoke with his back to the room because he felt Bloomberg had turned his back on struggling New Yorkers.

"I suggest you step aside and let term limits do their job," he said. "Your time is up and you must go."

Some who testified against the law told Bloomberg that voters deserved the chance to decide term-limits law through a referendum. Bloomberg has said there was not enough time to get it on this year's ballot, and argues that it would be impractical to have one next year at the same time as candidates are revving up their 2009 campaigns.

Before public comment began at Monday's hearing, Bloomberg said the fiscal crisis has forced the city "to put pragmatism first."

"The people will render the final verdict on this bill because it empowers them to decide who they want in office," he said.

Supporters who came to speak agreed with Bloomberg's contention that his expertise as a former CEO was crucial to helping the city weather the financial storm.

"We have chosen the mayor to lead our city in the right direction, and he will continue leading us," said Placido Rodriguez.

A number of critics warned Bloomberg that he put his re-election bid in jeopardy by upsetting so many New Yorkers. At times, the public comment was heated.

One man, David Tieu, took a step forward and yelled at Bloomberg, prompting the mayor's security detail to take notice and move closer.

"We're not going to be silent, we're not going to be afraid, we have numbers," Tieu said. "You might have the money but we have the power."

The mayoral election is next November.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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