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Groups Rally Against Term Limit Extension

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With legislation to extend term limits expected to be introduced into the City Council this week, several groups opposed to the changes held rallies Sunday.

Among those speaking out in protest was two-term city comptroller and potential mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

During an interview on WBLS radio, Thompson said voters, not the City Council, should make the decision on whether or not elected officials can serve more than two consecutive terms.

"As it's being done now, I just think it's wrong. I think it is," said Thompson. "It really undermines democracy, and if the council moves forward and does this, it's almost as in supposedly the greatest city in the world, democracy will be hijacked."

City Councilman David Weprin and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum also spoke out against the issue Sunday afternoon.

"I actually am against term limits; however, it would be wrong for the City Council by legislation to overturn the will of the people without a public referendum," said Weprin.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall, speakers, including Councilman Bill De Blasio, questioned the timing of Bloomberg's announcement.

"Go back and look at when this administration started floating out its trial balloons on extending term limits. Go back and look how many months ago that was," said De Blasio. "Then ask yourself the question: if they wanted to be fair and responsible and involve the people, why didn't they move to have a referendum this fall?"

"Term limits should be extended to three terms, but it should be done by a vote of the people," said Councilman John Liu.

Some voters also appeared at the rallies, saying they want to be heard.

"You have some hell of a nerve telling us our votes don't count and we are humiliated and embarrassed," said a voter.

A public hearing on term limits could be held as early as Friday.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he would be interested in a third term.

Appearing on CNN Sunday, Bloomberg defended his proposal.

"We've started a lot of projects and would like to see them through, and it's easy to cancel them in tough times, and I want to make sure we don't," he said. "Because it is in tough times, Wolf [Blitzer], that we really have to make the investments in the future so that when the good times come, we'll have the things available."

Meanwhile, at his annual National Action Network conference Saturday, the Reverend Al Sharpton did not take a stance on the matter – but he did invite some potential mayoral candidates to speak against the mayor's proposal.

"There are those who ask me, 'two terms or three terms?', and what I say is, 'it's not up to me,'" said Thompson. "Or, 'do you believe in term limits?' No, I might not be a supporter of term limits, but I'm a beneficiary of term limits."

"It is illegal, against the law, for Mike Bloomberg to run for another term," said Congressman Anthony Weiner, another mayoral candidate. "And you, ladies and gentlemen, made that law."

"There are arguments on both sides," said Sharpton. "There are arguments that people should have the right to decide if term limits change. The others that are saying that people should have the right to have representatives as long as they want, is they vote for them. So it's not an easy answer."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was also invited to the event, but declined, citing recent developments.

She could introduce new term limits legislation to the City Council as early as Tuesday.

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