‘12’ is the magic number for officials - Pols facing ‘unemployment’ look to stretch terms

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The debate over term limits for city elected officials may have reached a new pitch now that a pivotal player has lost a bid for higher office.

Just like many of his other colleagues in City Hall, Borough Park City Councilmember Simcha Felder found himself facing the prospect of impending unemployment last Tuesday after he failed to unseat State Senator Kevin Parker in the Democratic primary for the 21st State Senate District.

Yet his job in the City Council – slated to end at the close of 2009 – could be extended if Mayor Michael Bloomberg tinkers with the city’s term limits and extends their tour of duty from eight years to 12 – a decision Felder may have some influence over as chair of the City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee.

Speaking after his defeat Tuesday, Felder said that if the City Council is called to debate the pros and cons of term limits, the Governmental Operations Committee would hold hearings.

As of this writing, no hearings have been set. Bloomberg, who has been fielding the possibility of extending term limits, said that if anything is done on the subject, it would take place after the November elections.

The deafening whispers over term limits have left the City Council and other city leaders in a form of employment limbo, with many hoping for four more years and others, like Park Slope City Councilmember Bill de Blasio, who has announced a run for Brooklyn Borough President in 2009, possibly facing a primary against incumbent Marty Markowitz.

Felder said that he currently has no opinion about term limits, although he thinks it’s “something that should be looked into.”

“I did a survey in my district and we asked people about term limits and whether it should be four, eight, 12 and 16 years and most said 12,” he said. “[The city] voted for eight years not because they were foolish, but because they were not really aware what it meant.”

Many city elected officials claim that term limits should be extended to 12 years so they can see the plans they set in motion early in their political careers come to fruition.

Felder said that as a policy he doesn’t take a position on anything that comes before one of his committees.

“I find it bizarre to have someone come to speak before the committee with the committee members staring at him thinking, ‘I hate what you’re saying.’”

Still, the term limit issue may put Felder in a bit of a political bind, with his colleagues eagerly watching the outcome.

Also demanding a front row seat will probably be Bloomberg, a longtime friend and colleague of Felder’s who stumped for him in his race against Parker.

Other Brooklyn City Council members in the Governmental Operations Committee include Coney Island Councilmember Domenic Recchia and Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan.

Meanwhile, the other losing candidate in the 21st State Senate district primary race, City Councilmember Kendall Stewart, said he thinks term limits should be extended.

“I think term limits should be extended to three terms based on the fact that the change [the current two terms] would set us back somewhat now that so much progress has been made the last four years,” said Stewart, noting that more than 30 city council members will have to give up their seats.

Stewart said if term limits are extended he would definitely run for a third term.

— With Stephen Witt

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