There’s more to this year’s election than meets the eye.
Once you finish filling out that new paper ballot on Nov. 2, don’t go running off to one of those newfangled scanners. Rather, flip the sheet and answer two ballot questions — one of which addresses, yet again, the issue of term limits for city legislators.
Voters ratified term limits twice, in 1993 and in 1998, deciding to cut off city officials after two, four-year terms — but the Council, with Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing, upended that apple cart last year to give lawmakers one more bite.
On Tuesday, voters will be asked if they want to reduce the current three term limit back to two. If the measure is approved, however, the change will only apply to city legislators elected after 2010, so freshmen councilmembers like Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) and Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush) will still have two more terms to look forward to.
If you think this vote is just like the previous two, it’s not. It’s a bit more iron-clad: In the future, the Council won’t be able to change its own term limits, the proposal promises (really! It actually stipulates that).
But term limits is one of two ballot questions voters will be asked to weigh in on. The second is a whopping seven-part proposal on elections and government administration that calls for:
• Creating a commission that could effectively reduce what little power community boards have taking away — at least in the commission’s view — needless responsibilities. The council would have to approve these recommendations.
Requiring deep-pocketed, politically active independent groups to disclose their campaign expenditures.
• Reducing the number of petition signatures needed by candidates for city office to get on the ballot. If passed, the number of petition signatures needed for mayor, public advocate and comptroller candidates will be reduced from 7,500 to 3,750. Signatures needed by borough president candidates will be reduced from 4,000 to 2,000 and Council candidates would only have to collect 450 signatures to get on the ballot instead of 900.
• Making the Campaign Finance Board in charge of all voter assistance functions.
• Making sure all public servants get conflict of interest training and raise the fines against legislators who violate the city’s Conflict of Interest Law.
• Creating an Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings which will adjudicate all violations meted out by the city agencies.
• Adding transportation and waste management facilities to a Department of City Planning map that identifies all city owned properties. By law, the map must be consulted before new city facilities are brought in.
It’s a lot to take in, but don’t worry about picking or choosing what you like and what you don’t. It’s an all-or-nothing proposal. So if you like a couple of the proposals, but can’t stomach one of them, you’ve got to either live with it, or reject the entire slate.
Ahh, democracy at its finest!