By Gifford Miller

In January 2002, a new Council will be sworn in with at least 35 new members. New York will also have a new Mayor, a new Public Advocate, a new Comptroller, and at least four new Borough Presidents. Never before will term limits have turned over an entire government of the size of New York in such a sweeping fashion.

I am not a supporter of term limits. I believe that every term is properly limited by the ballot box. Elected officials, like everyone else, improve at their jobs through knowledge and experience. However, as much as we elected officials would like to think of ourselves as utterly indispensable, life will go on. And the City's new leadership will face significant challenges that can no longer be ignored.

Too many of our children continue to receive a substandard education. More than two million New Yorkers lack health care coverage. Our infrastructure continues to age. New York's housing crisis continues into the foreseeable future. Even our economic successes of the past five years present great challenges. As a city, we are overexposed to the ups and downs of Wall Street. We need to strengthen traditional job sectors such as the health care industry and light manufacturing, as well as embrace newer industries like new media and biotechnology.

Some of the solutions to these problems come down to investment. New York can't improve its public education without good teachers, and you can't attract better teachers without paying competitive wages. New York can't create new jobs if our mass transit system isn't able to deliver workers to their jobs. But many of the problems require new, innovative ideas and solutions.

I believe the next Council must tackle these problems head on. Under Speaker Vallone's leadership, the Council has come a long way toward being the kind of equal partner in government that the 1989 Charter envisioned. We must ensure that in the new term limits era, all political dialogue does not begin and end with the Mayor. To do this, we need to encourage every new and old Council Member to be a part of that dialogue by empowering Committee Chairs and Members to help set the Council's agenda. Only by collective leadership can the Council hope to fashion and enact solutions to our very real problems. I look forward to the opportunity to be part of that constructive change.

Gifford Miller (D-L) represents the 5th district, which incorporates much of the Upper East Side of Manhattan and all of Roosevelt Island. Neighborhoods within his district include Beekman, Carnegie Hill, Sutton Place, Turtle Bay and Yorkville.


Check out the Commentary Archives!