LAST MINUTE TERM-LIMIT DECISION

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When Council Member Gale Brewer was about to explain her vote on term limits, she said she had two speeches in front of her eyes: one in support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bill to extend term limits, and one against the measure.
She eventually read from the speech that explained her “no” vote, though she said nobody knew how she was going to vote until she actually did. Brewer had remained silent on the issue and undecided on her vote.
“I think about a half hour earlier I decided,” Brewer said. “I really didn’t know.”
Her decision might have been made for her if an amendment that she introduced with Council members Alan Gerson and had David Yassky passed. That amendment would have required a voter referendum to extend term limits, essentially gutting the mayor’s bill. Brewer, Gerson and Yassky all voted for the amendment, but Brewer was the only one who also voted against the mayor’s legislation.
Brewer had been wrestling with the vote: she said she thinks Bloomberg has been an effective mayor and has always felt that 12 years in office is better than eight. Even more so, she said she felt that Council members who voted against Bloomberg’s bill would benefit with a third term anyway.
“It is a little ‘Have your cake and eat it too,’” Brewer said. “You’re riding on the backs of people who vote ‘yes.’”
Still, Brewer bucked that logic and voted against the bill.
“Something just gnawed at me, at my gut,” she said. “The real reason was the depth of people concerned about this issue. I never saw anything like it.”
Many of her closest friends and allies, Brewer said, felt passionately that term limits ought to be changed through a referendum, like the ballot initiatives in 1993 and 1996 that authorized term limits, rather than Council action.
“Most of the people who were bothering me about the right to vote,” Brewer said, “mean a lot to me.”

–Dan Rivoli

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