Parker: Last Hope for Democracy?
March 18th, 2009

“Once again it just goes to show that money can buy justice in America,” said Sen. Kevin Parker in reaction to the Justice Department’s decision to OK the bill that would allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term. Critics said that the extension of term limits would disenfranchise minority candidates, because minority candidates traditionally have great difficulty defeating white incumbents.

Parker said that he felt the ruling was “not consistent” with other rulings on similar cases. Parker has a bill pending in the Senate that would change state election law to require a voter referendum on the expansion of term limits. Hakeem Jeffries has matching legislation pending in the Assembly. “The Jeffries/Parker referendum bill is now the last best hope to secure democracy for the city,” declared Parker.

New Yorkers voted twice, once in 1993 and once in 1996, to limit elected officials to two terms. But Bloomberg accomplished his term-limit extension by a vote of the City Council, a group Parker does not have kind words for. “The City Council and President Quinn are in the back pocket of the mayor and can’t be trusted to protect democracy,” he said.

Austin Shafran, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, noted that Smith “personally is not in favor of term limits” and “sees it as a local issue,” but said that Smith “won’t block” the legislation. A spokesperson for Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said, “It is a local decision that has already been made.” Skelos’ spokesperson questioned whether the bill actually has enough “votes to pass” and stated firmly, “we are opposed to the bill.”

Parker’s bill recently passed through the Senate Elections Committee and is now pending the Senate’s Finance Committee. But the Senate currently has its hands full; Parker said he had “hope” the bill would be taken up by the committee soon but noted the “bad timing with the MTA and budget fight.”

Parker has been accused of proposing the bill because of his dislike for Bloomberg, who endorsed Parkers opponent, Cuncilmember Simcha Felder in a 2008 primary. Parker denies that his actions are driven by a grudge. “As far as I see it, I am up two to zero against the mayor,” said Parker, pointing to the defeat of congestion pricing, which Bloomberg supported, and his victory against Felder.

Parker cites preserving “process and democracy” as his motivation and said his bill would not simply disqualify Bloomberg as a candidate but would also bring the extension of term limits to a public vote, something Parker said should have happened in the first place.

If his bill passes Parker does not think it will mean the end of Bloomberg’s chances for a third term. “Frankly, I think if the mayor did it the right way the first time and let the people decide he would have won.” Parker added that if he was a betting man, he would bet the mayor will probably get a chance at a third time even if his bill does pass.

By on March 18, 2009, 7:14 pm
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