The Limits of Term-Limits

Term limits are such a bad idea. They undermine and weaken government by enforcing a constant turnover of public officials, leaving as permanent fixtures only the lobbyists and special interests.

But don't believe me. Prof. Eric Lane who led a task force that restructured NYC government in 1990 had this to say on WNYC last night ('hour two'):

Eric Lane (42:40): I think the City Council has worked out very well relative to what it was before. I think that the complaint about too many hacks out for their own good has lot to do with term limits which we did not put into the Charter.*

But the term limits have sort of forced people that want to stay in government to spend a lot of their time running for office and thinking of themselves individually as opposed to thinking about the Council itself institutionally. And I think that’s gravely weakened the Council.

He felt so strongly about the issue that he came back to it after a couple of minutes:

Eric Lane (45:48) I want to come back to this point -- the limiting terms in this case. What it’s done is to make everybody start to think about what’s the next office they’re going to run for and who they’re going to compete against. And that does not help the joint action that good legislatures need.

*Note: term limits were passed by referendum a few years later thanks to a campaign funded by rightwing billionaire Ron Lauder.