Executive Director of Citizens Union
On Speaker Quinn's Term Limit Announcement

"Regrets Quinn's Decision May Prevent Needed Public Debate"

Citizens Union appreciates the clear and straight forward statement issued today by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn that she does not support legislation or a referendum eliminating or altering term limits. We commend her and the Council for its recent enactment of several important political reforms that have included improving the oversight of city lobbying activity, strengthening the campaign finance program, and taking important actions to increase the transparency and accountability of the Council itself.

We always have believed that it would have been inappropriate for the City Council to act unilaterally and pass legislation extending term limits on its own, when the voters had twice previously voted for a term in office of not more than eight years.

The issue of term limits is, however, an important one, and Citizens Union would support the creation of a charter commission with the possibility of presenting to the voters a new referendum on the issue of term limits and answer the question for how long they should be.

While term limits resulted in sweeping out many long serving, and in some cases, stale members of the Council in 2001, we now have a body of evidence of the impact term limits has had on city government. We believe that this evidence should be gathered, reviewed, analyzed, and result in a decision whether voters should be asked once again their position on term limits. Much has changed since voters weighed in fourteen and eleven years ago in 1993 and 1996 respectively to establish term limits, including that there are many new voters now that have not had the opportunity to express their opinion on this issue. The responsible action would be to create the forum and a process, such as a charter review commission, to evaluate the issue more fully before reaching any conclusions.

We fear that with less than two years until the next city election too many current council members are spending more time running for their next office instead of serving their constituents and giving the time needed to address important city issues. This is but one of several possible drawbacks to an eight year term.

Many New Yorkers have opinions on whether term limits should be kept or amended in some way. What is needed is a thoughtful and full public discussion on the issue before ruling in or out any change to term limits. While legislation would have been bad, we regret that the speaker's decision may possibly prevent a fuller discussion of this important issue.

Citizens Union of the City of New York, a non-partisan force for good government for more than 100 years, works to inform and engage New Yorkers, to ensure local and state government values its citizens, addresses critical issues, and operates in a fair, open, and fiscally sound manner.

299 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10007-1976
Peter J. W. Sherwin, Chair • Dick Dadey, Executive Director •