Posted by: vote4claxton | October 22, 2008

ANTI-TERM LIMITS COUNCILMAN JAMES SANDERS JR. IS A PROFILE IN INDECISION-New York Times

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/councilman-sanders-profile-of-indecision/#more-4359

October 21, 2008, 1:21 pm <!– — Updated: 6:32 pm –>

Councilman Sanders, Profile in Indecision

James Sanders Jr.City Councilman James Sanders Jr. in Queens in September 2007. (Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times)

Before James Sanders Jr. was elected to the City Council in 2001, he was a president of a local school board in southeast Queens and something of a community and political activist. He also worked as a youth coordinator where he spoke with young people about the importance of voting. To hear his political allies tell it — and by his own admission — the James Sanders of that era might well have been a leader in the opposition to oppose a measure to extend term limits.

But Mr. Sanders, a Democrat, is now very much in the undecided column, with forces on both sides of the argument pulling at him. And, in many ways, his is a common portrait of an undecided vote. He is a legislator caught between his own history in progressive politics and a desire to serve his district for an additional term.

“There are good arguments on both sides,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview on Tuesday morning, speaking of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to extend term limits by a vote of the Council. The city’s term limit laws are a result of two public referendums in the 1990s.

The councilman said that he had long been a supporter of term limits and that he would like to see the matter voted on again by the public. “I absolutely would like to see this go before the voters,” he said. “But there are forces at work that are larger than me. I’m not steering this ship.”

Then, there is the matter of his relationship with Mayor Bloomberg, which he described as a “strong, healthy relationship.”

“The mayor says that it’s not his timing, but Wall Street’s that has created this timetable,” Mr. Sanders said. “Of course, the mayor’s timing is, from my point of view, inelegant.”

Despite his longstanding support of term limits, Mr. Sanders said that he found persuasive the argument that a limit of 12 years in office for city officials is preferable to eight years. The eight-year period, he said, is simply insufficient to bring various development projects and other initiatives to fruition.

Mr. Sanders explained that when he was chairman of the Council’s Committee on Economic Development, “all of the mayor’s projects came through the committee, and we developed a very cordial working relationship.”

Mr. Sanders said he had not been subjected to any pressure from Mr. Bloomberg. But some of his colleagues and officials in southeastern Queens say there are other issues that Mr. Sanders is undoubtedly weighing.

By voting in favor of the bill, they say, Mr. Sanders would garner the gratitude and perhaps even the favor of Mr. Bloomberg in helping the councilman bring some project in his district to fruition.

On the other hand, there are other issues. For one, an extension of term limits would defer the candidacy of one of the aspirants to Mr. Sanders’s City Council seat: his wife, Andrea Stevenson-Sanders.

In addition, many of the people who have long been his biggest supporters are aligned against the mayor’s proposal. And a good deal of momentum is building on the part of some labor unions and other civic groups toward actively opposing certain council members who vote in favor of the mayor’s proposal.

Indeed, Mr. Sanders’s first campaign as an insurgent candidate in a crowded race was virtually run by the Working Families Party, a leading opponent of the extension of term limits. (The Queens Democratic leadership backed another candidate.)

“The James Sanders of that era would have been very progressive and would have said that it was an issue that the people should decide,” said Bertha Lewis, the national chief organizer for Acorn and a leader within the Working Families Party.

“The James Sanders that we see now — the man who is still undecided on an issue as important as this at this late date — is a different,” she said. “Being undecided seems to be a tactic employed by professional politicians who are positioning themselves for something. It’s very puzzling and very disturbing.”

Mr. Sanders says he, too, feels uncomfortable. No matter how he votes, he is likely to offend someone. He said that if a vote was scheduled for Thursday, he would make a decision by Wednesday. He said he still has no idea how he will vote. But he said that he feels deeply torn.

When asked whether he saw himself as being different from the James Sanders who ran for office in 2001, he said: I am not as romantic, as pure or as idealistic as I was then. I’m a more seasoned political player, and my eyes are opened to aspects of politics that they weren’t open to before.”

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