On Tuesday night, November 22, we got to watch the Yonkers City Council extend term limits for the second time in a row. I applaud the council members for sitting through two nights of commentary by city employees and residents. It was the political theater at its best, just blocks from Lionsgate. The individual members made up their minds even before the Council President presented the legislation in the rules committee. She would have never put it forward if she didn’t have the votes.
There were a few unscripted surprises. Mike Breen parted with the Yonkers GOP and voted in favor of extending term limits. Chairman John Larkin released a statement condemning the extension of term limits by council vote. The Yonkers GOP would have preferred to see a referendum, giving residents a voice in the legislation. However, Breen’s defection should not be seen as a surprise. He attempted the assembly race without Spano support and did not succeed.
In the few pieces of legislation Breen has initiated, he seems to favor the mayors’ need. The removal of the PE designation from the commissioner of building’s requirement was bad legislation. Breen equates that to a hospital administrator not being a physician, a flawed analogy. The mayor is the administrator, and the commissioner is the department head. How many hospitals hire an accountant to run anesthesiology? And let’s not forget that it was Breen who introduced the legislation to extend term limits in 2018.
Corazon Pineda-Issac presented a concise and cogent argument against extending term limits. In retrospect, this should not be seen as a surprise either. Her words were eloquent, and her analogies were spot on. The council spent six weeks debating how trash should be picked up, but ten days on voting rights.
The real surprises came when the Council President and Majority Leader spoke. Lakisha Collins-Bellamy suffered a family tragedy and deserves credit for placing her duties in front of family obligations. She took the opportunity to set the record straight before her vote. Although this was not the right venue, I understand the emotion.
Tasha Diaz was completely out of line. She must have felt that the Council President’s speech would eclipse her “shining” star. Diaz addressed and disparaged her constituents and members of the gallery. Council members are not to enter into discussions with the gallery. Her words were inflammatory, which led to an altercation in the gallery and an arrest. She once again proved her unsuitability for public office.
Politicians and elected officials need to have thick skin. If you can’t take criticism, find another profession. If you think you can make everyone happy, you are deluded. Tuesday night’s performance by the council was an embarrassment to our city.
The subject of term limits and the irrational behavior of some council members is not about the mayor or his performance. Mike Spano has achieved a lot for Yonkers in the last four years. I don’t think we would have gotten here without Spano and his team at the helm, but legislation cannot be about one person. I advocated for a third term, because in 2018 Yonkers was in a financial mess and Mayor Mike had the trust of Governor Cuomo. While the mayor has done a good job in the last four years, he is not the only person capable of running this city and we are not in the same dire position as 2018.