When the Legislature announced intentions this spring to open the Rockland County Charter for revisions, my Administration immediately started work on several meaningful reforms. While any changes to the Charter require legislative approval, I expect one critical proposal to be given thoughtful and complete consideration: term limits.
A 2013 poll conducted by the Siena College Research Institute found eight out of ten registered voters in New York believe state law should limit how long state senators and assembly members can serve. Other recent surveys have yielded similar results at the federal level. A study by “The Washington Post” found term limits favored by more than 70 percent of the American public. And, just across the Hudson River in Westchester, you will find term limits for County legislators and the County Executive. Despite shrill screams from entrenched politicians, you will find that government functioning quite nicely!
Here in Rockland County, I realize term limits are all about good government. I made it known early in my campaign that I would “self limit” by seeking only two terms as your County Executive. The principle of rotation is a check against the belief that any elected leader is indispensable. I offer the same philosophy for our legislators. None should serve more than three consecutive four-year terms. Simply put, the notion of a permanent governing body is bad for our residents.
As the headlines continue to be dominated by news of criminal investigations, felony indictments and patronage scandals, I believe term limits will help to choke the insidious growth of political corruption. It’s easy to see how backroom deals, favoritism and cronyism lead to bad decisions and gridlock at all levels of government. Often times, the people’s business is done for the satisfaction of special interests and, sadly, the people have grown tired of government’s “business as usual” attitude. Term limits would help bring an end to an era in which money and influence sways proposed legislation and election ballots.
My Administration is working hard every day to change the culture within this organization. We’re also working to improve the public perception of Rockland County. From an economic standpoint, any effort to purge politics of careerism would help to restore the trust placed in our people by our residents, the media and the financial markets, which continue to watch us closely.
Term limits alone will not remedy the dysfunction that can make local politics so repellant. I do believe, however, that limits encourage fresh ideas and help prevent endemic wrongdoing. President Ronald Reagan was an ardent supporter saying, “Professional politicians like to talk about the value of experience in government. Nuts! The only experience you gain in politics is how to be political.”
If the residents of Rockland County are asked to decide on revisions to the County Charter, I will make sure the changes include issues critical to the people, not certain, self-serving politicians. Term limits is at the top of my list.