The City Council today rejected a proposed limit on how long somebody can serve as mayor.
While backers of the measure, sponsored by at-large Councilor Sam Yoon, said it would reinvigorate the political process and prevent the abuses of incumbency, opponents said it was insulting to tell voters they could not vote for the candidate of their choice as often as they want.
Against: Ciommo, Consalvo, Feeney, LaMattina, Linehan, Murphy, Yancey.
For: Connolly, Flaherty, Ross, Tobin, Turner, Yoon.
The council voted 8-5 to reject a proposal by at-large Councilor John Connolly to limit city councilors as well; Ross, who voted for mayoral term limits, voted against.
Comments from councilors before the vote:
Feeney: "I don't believe that is something our forefathers intended," she said, pointing to Ted Kennedy as an example of why to oppose term limits. "People have died all across this universe" for the right to vote, she said, adding she has been to Normandy twice and recognizes the sacrifice soldiers there made to preserve our right to vote.
Turner: "I don't think the country is any worse (for having a limit on presidential terms). ... If this country can be well served by having term limits for president, than I think we can be well served by having term limits for mayor."
Yoon: City needs freshness and change. "We know that the power of incumbency here, no matter who's in office, can overwhelm."
Yancey: "My concern is that what we would do were this to pass would actually be to limit choice. I know there are some in this chambers who think I am in the mayor's back pocket, but let me assure you this has nothing to do with my great and working relationship with the current mayor." Would limit future voters. There is no guarantee that we would be re-elected. Many incumbent councilors have lost elections. It artificially restricts choice on the part of future voters.
LaMattina: Said he can't deprive voters of their choice. His grandfather was so proud to become a citizen and win the right to vote. He said his daughter told him last night, "You know dad, the voter should decide." "I don't think it's fair to the voters."
Connolly: Supports term limits: "I think we have a crisis in civic participation and voter participation in the country and the city. I don't think term limits will be the cure all," but it will help. Will also help increase number of candidates. Look at the at-large council race this year. "We shouldn't have to wait 8 or 12 more years" for another race like that. "While people want, first and foremost, qualified leaders, we also want more woman and candidates from communities of color who are also qualified leaders." Feeney made the single best argument against term limits: Sen. Ted Kennedy. "But where I come down at the end of the day on the argument there, is that for every Sen. Ted Kennedy there seems to be more along the lines of Sen. Strom Thurmond." The power and money of incumbency skews the process.
Consalvo: Not only hurts democracy, but voters. "Nothing more valuable than the individual vote. Nothing is more powerful than the individual voters." For every Strom Thurmond, "I will give you thousands of examples" of powerful incumbents turned out by voters. "Those who come out to vote know what they're doing." Also, us pols? "We don't have to run for re-election!" On the seven years, I've been on the city council, there have been eight new councilors!"
Tobin: Wants to increase limit to three four-year terms, support Connolly to limit city-council terms. Look at the pathetic turnout in the Senate race. "This is about stifling people who want to serve." Didn't believe in term limits until he was elected. Why is Boston only now getting its first female African-American city councilor? I can understand how some long serving councilors could take this personally. "We respect the past and we respect their service. This is about the future and about moving forward." Bloomberg spent millions and millions and millions against an unknown and still barely won. That was a rebuke against his effort to overturn New York term limits. Time has come for a full blown charter commission.
Flaherty: "It's the power of the office. It's name recognition. No one's reading the newspapers anymore," he said. "The best candidate doesn't always win. The hardest worker doesn't always win. If he did, Doug Bennett would be coming onto the city council." Some opposed to term limits for mayor supported term limits for city council president. "Be consistent. Don't have it both ways, folks."
Murphy: "I've seen it all. I've just seen my good collegaue from Roxbury supporting the federal government way of doing things." "I enjoy what I do here ... so I give it my best." Term limits would mean loss of institutional memory in City Hall.
Ciommo: "It demonstrates a lack of confidence in the voter when we arbitrarily choose a number of terms. ... At the end of the day, it's about choice. ... My summer was ruined, Councilor Tobin, but it was a good challenge."
Linehan: Opposed. Always have opposed them. "We've had three mayors since I've been able to vote and during that period, the city has grown and improved and become one of the premier cities in the country without term limits."
Yancey: Tony Creighton, David Scondras, Dapper O'Neil, all proof we don't need term limits. Willie Brown in SF proof term limits are wrong.
Ross: "The model I think works best is the state and federal model: Limits on executive, no limits on the legislature." The legislature, he said, would serve as a check on bureaucracy.
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