City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said on Thursday that legislation to alter the city’s term limits law would be introduced on Tuesday, paving the way for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Quinn and more than 40 other elected officials to stay in office four more years.
The council’s vote on the measure — which Bloomberg has pushed for behind the scenes — could come later this month, Quinn told reporters at a news conference. And while she declined to reveal her position on the legislation, she said she would meet with other members of the council to discuss the bill and “move forward in the process after that.”
Quinn’s remarks, and the rapid timetable she described, immediately triggered criticism that a deal had already been struck between the mayor and Quinn, who has been his close ally, to overhaul the term limits law, which restricts elected officials to two terms. Voters have twice approved the term limits, and Quinn had previously said she was opposed to undoing the voters’ will.
U.S. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn and Queens, and City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., who both plan to run for mayor next year, denounced the plan to extend term limits as a subversion of democracy.
“This is fundamentally about a back-room deal, substituting the value and judgment of the citizens of New York City for their own,” Weiner said during a news conference just outside the gates of City Hall. “This is the quintessential inside deal between two ends of City Hall.”
Weiner’s appearance came on a dramatic day at City Hall, as Bloomberg for the first time explained why he believes extending the term limits is necessary. At a formal news conference in the Blue Room at City Hall, the mayor said that the economic crisis facing the city presents challenges more grave than those New York confronted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Given the events of recent weeks and given the enormous challenges we face, I don’t want to walk away from a city I feel I can help lead through these tough times,” Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, said.
Still, although the mayor repeatedly pointed to the Wall Street crisis as the driving reason for his decision to overhaul the law and seek another term, it is clear that he began considering the idea and reaching out to potential supporters well before the financial tumult began last month.
Bloomberg said at the news conference that he was still a supporter of term limits, but that he had come to believe that three terms should be the limit, not two. Later in the day, responding to a reporter’s question, he said he would not seek any change in the future that would allow him to run for a fourth term.
Bloomberg also spoke expansively about his love of a job he has long called the greatest in the world.
“I think that we have come a long ways and I think that we have more to do and that we can do it,” he said.