Term limits to halt NY mayor in tracks

September 20, 2001 11:00 pm

Term limits, those policies that prevent elected officials from becoming power-centered, career politicians, are showing their ugly side in New York City.

Voters in Oregon and elsewhere have supported term limits, which prevent state senators and representatives and other elected leaders from staying in office for 20 or 30 years, or even longer. Give the new guy (or woman) a chance to show what they can do, backers of term limits say.

Term limits in Oregon, which prevent state senators from serving more than two four-year terms (eight years total) and representatives from serving more than three two-year terms (six years), are wreaking havoc on the legislative process.

Legislators are rising to leadership while still relatively inexperienced. They serve a term or two as a committee chairman, and then are bounced out of the system because of term limits. Meanwhile, long-time state employees, a.k.a. bureaucrats, and lobbyists are given an upper hand in interpreting legislative history and setting state policy. Thats wrong.

Now back to New York. Most people feel that the citys mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, has done a superb job responding to the World Trade Center disaster. City residents see him as a stabilizing leader, capable of guiding the city through its time of crisis. Giuliani this week, for example, declared to the residents the truth about the 5,422 missing persons at the World Trade Center. He said the chances of finding any of them alive in the rubble was remote. These were tough but important words for the families of the victims to hear. They needed to be said. The mayor spoke them with gentleness and courage.

Giuliani is the obvious person to lead New York in the coming year as the city continues to deal with the loss of lives, the cleanup of the mess and the prospect of new buildings and a memorial rising from the site. Yet Giuliani, who is completing his second term Dec. 31, will not be mayor after that. Elected officials are barred by the city charter from serving more than two terms.

Term limits in this case have backfired, working against the interests of the citizens they are intended to help. Unless New Yorkers are given a chance to amend their charter between now and December, Giuliani will be forced to step aside from his role. That would be unfortunate.

Appropriate response

The weather was cool for baseball Wednesday night at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners, who beat Anaheim 5-0, clinched the 2001 American League West championship.

It was a fine September evening. Instead of cheering, screaming and breaking out the champagne after the final out, the Mariners circled the pitchers mound and prayed.

Team inspirational leader Mark McLemore then carried a U.S. flag along the basepaths, while his teammates followed. The purpose of all this was to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Mariners celebration took a back seat to a far more important cause: celebrating Old Glory and mourning the nations great loss.