The City Council's Thursday 29-22 vote to extend term limits to three four-year terms came at great controversy and much consideration from the council members.
Two first-term council members in particular made notable switches. Bronx Councilman James Vacca and Brooklyn Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, had previously told NY1 that they disapproved of extending term limits, but then voted for the measure Thursday.
In Vacca’s district of Throgs Neck, Bronx, some voters regretted that their councilman had changed his position on term limits.
“If you ran two terms, you ran two terms and it should just end that way. To make a decision after deciding no and then changing, somebody talked him into it,” said a voter.
Others said that Vacca made a right decision and looked forward to voting for him again.
“If he can run for two terms, why can’t he run for three? That’s my opinion.
Before voting for the bill, Vacca said he changed his mind at the last minute because his mother told him she wanted a full choice of candidates in the mayoral election next November.
Vacca claimed his mother became aware of the situation by watching NY1’s political news program “Inside City Hall.”
"My mother had seen NY1. She had seen Mark Green with Governor Cuomo and Mayor Koch. And my mother never watches that show. She will watch other stations, ‘Matlock,’ ‘Murder She Wrote,’ that's my mother's type of show,” said Vacca. “But she called me up and she said, ‘Jimmy, I'm watching this show with the governor and the mayor… do you mean that I will not have a chance to vote for Mayor Bloomberg even if I wish to vote for him?’ I said, ‘No you won't. If term limits goes through, you won't have that opportunity.’ And my mother says, ‘But Jimmy, this is a free country. I don't think you're doing the right thing.’ And I think my mother's remark typifies many remarks I got in the community. People may or may not want to vote for Mayor Bloomberg, but they wanted the opportunity at that time to make a judgment."
In the Tremont Diner, a majority of people disagreed with the way Vacca voted.
"He listened to mommy?" said a waitress.
"Somebody had to have talked him into it for him to make a decision, after deciding no and then change," said a diner.
"It's just a slap in the face to me and every citizen that lives here in the city," said another diner.
"I'm a Bloomberg supporter but I don't think that was correct, that they didn't bring it to the people," said a third.
But some of those who spoke to NY1 agreed with extending term limits.
"Nothing wrong with what he did," said a diner. "Been doing a good job, he's been doing it for two terms, why can't I have him for three?"
Meanwhile, Mealy did not talk to NY1 today, but two weeks ago, she said in an interview that she wanted term limits to be decided by referendum.
“A referendum would be good,” said Mealy. “If we’d never started off with a referendum, that would have been fine, but have did it twice [sic] and people are accustomed to it now.”
In Mealy’s district of Crown Heights, some voters were disappointed and said she took away a chance for voters to be heard and to participate in the decision-making.
“I think the rules say if it’s two terms, you’re supposed to stick by the rules,” said a voter.
“I was like, she was on the right road and then she just switched back,” said another. “I don’t understand that.”
Others said that Mealy probably had justifiable reasons to change her mind and was entitled to do so.
“I think everybody does what’s in their best interest. What’s wrong with that? That’s the way of the world,” said a voter.
“I think it’s for a reason that she changed her vote. It’s not going to affect how I vote for her,” said another voter. “I still would vote for her, and I do think it’s important to have a third term for people.”
Next year, the city’s voters will decide whether they want such action or will continue supporting their incumbent council members.