The City Council
In 1993, Ronald Lauder, millionaire and cosmetics heir, initiated a campaign to place a charter amendment before the voters in November calling for term limits for all city elected officials. In 1989, Lauder had unsuccessfully run for mayor, losing to Rudolph Giuliani in the Republican primary even though he spent approximately fourteen million dollars, four times more than Giuliani (Roberts 1993a). In his campaign for term limits, Lauder was seeking to limit all elected city officials (mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough presidents, and city council members) to two four-year terms. In a letter to the New York Times in September 1993, Lauder argued that term limits would address the advantages of incumbency and would “return citizen legislators to office, remove much of the incentive for incumbents to manipulate the rules to insure lifetime incumbency, provide a safeguard to eliminate the multiple abuses that can come with unlimited tenure in office, bring fresh views and opinions to political office, and provide a wider choice of candidates” (Lauder 1993).
The supporters of term limits focused on the advantages of incumbency. In recent city council elections, incumbents had won over 90 percent of the time and some members had been on the city council since the 1970s. Some believed that term limits would “reinvigorate the political grassroots” and involve more citizens in government (Roberts 1993b). Other interest groups, however, believed that the turnover of so many city council members would cripple the effectiveness of the city's legislative body (Roberts 1993b).
Opponents argued that if citizens wanted elected officials out of office, they could always vote them out by choosing another candidate. Term limits would deprive the voters of electing an effective legislator to a third term. Opponents were also concerned about who would serve on a term-limited city council. Although term limit supporters claimed that one of the benefits of term limits is that it would get rid of career politicians, opponents wondered who would be