‘Term Limits’ and a ‘No Two-hat Rule’ For Rockland County?


imageCounty Executive, Ed Day, and the leadership of the County Legislature under Alden Wolfe have been having discussions about changes to the County’s Charter. It appears that two of the items repeatedly asked for by the voters namely:

1) that there should be term limits for all elected officials and

2) that no elected official should hold a second job on the taxpayer’s dime, known as the two-hat rule

will not even come up for a vote if Chairman Wolfe has his way.

On Wolfe’s Facebook page he described the proposed charter changes as being “our proposal” and concentrated on the improvements it will bring to the “efficiency of the annual budget process” while neglecting to point out that for approximately the next ten years the legislature will be under the purview of the State Comptroller and can do nothing about its budget without the approval of the State Comptroller’s office.

Further, he fails to mention two of the key proposals brought to him by Day concerning ‘term limits’ and the ‘two-hat rule’. These are issues Day ran on and he was elected by a clear majority on this platform. Instead Wolfe opines that “neither side can expect that the final product will include every one of their priorities.

Here is how Chairman Wolfe presented his version of what should be approved by the legislature ……

Chairman Alden Wolfe on Facebook

On Tuesday evening (July 01, 2014) the Legislature will hold a public hearing on our proposal to amend the Rockland County Charter. This two year effort will improve the efficiency of the annual budget process, increase fiscal oversight and enhance the systems of checks and balances between branches of government. The version of the local law presented for public input follows extensive negotiations and discussion with the County Executive and his staff and incorporates significant operational input from the Executive branch, including the creation of a new chartered position for a Deputy County Executive.

The updated version of the legislation is a result of hours of healthy dialogue between our two branches of government. The legislation was redrafted and circulated many times over the past ten days. Hearing directly from the County Executive and his staff enabled us to consider the operational realities of many of our proposals, resulting in what I consider to be a much better law. Of course, any discussion as important as this will always require some level of give and take and neither side can expect that the final product will include every one of their priorities. I sincerely appreciate the many hours of work put into this process by our staff and those at the County Executive’s office.

One might ask Chairman Wolfe if ANY of County Executive Day’s priorities will be included in his “final product”?

Here is County Executive Day explained his version of what should be approved by the legislature in comments on WRCR when speaking to Steve Possell on June 26, 2014.

County Executive Ed Day on WRCR

Steve Possell: One of the most important things that must happen in this county which seems to be glossed over and is discussed occasionally on our show is Charter Revision. I am led to believe that it is going to be on the November ballot whatever you and the Legislature can hash out.  My question is what do YOU want in that referendum.

County Executive Day: The legislature presented a number of thoughts on charter revision. We worked very well with them and found some proposals were operationally problematic. The leadership (of the Legislature) did listen and we worked through it very well.

Things that were not in there that I feel are very important are 1) ‘term limits’ and 2) an enhanced ‘two-hat rule’ where if you are a legislator you will not be allowed to be hired by any other level of government. I just think that doesn’t look well, frankly (pun not intended).

Now these are things I have spoken about for years. When I first became a legislator I ran because of an appointment – I felt that was not the American way. It is something that gives power to the party that is in power and it is just not reflective of what it should be. I also think that it gives somebody who is appointed a ‘leg up’ on any opponent.

I felt very strongly about that and I refused to vote for any appointed positions. As a matter of fact Pat Withers who was appointed to the legislature and a fellow NYPD cop was told by me straight out that although I love you dearly and we come from the same ‘family’ I can not support your appointment and he understood that.

Those are the things that I thought were important to be in the Charter but they did not find their way through the process we engaged in. However, we (the in the County Executive office) opted to place those proposals on the desk so that they will be part of the debate on July 01, 2014 which is the next meeting of the Legislature. I am hopeful and I have requested this directly that there will be a vote on these items either up or down.

Those are the things that are missing!

The budget process, which I know is a major concern and understandably so with previous battles we have had, has fallen by the wayside because the fact of the matter is that when we took the $96 million loan, or the mortgage as I call it, from the State to help us get out of this we are under the oversight of the Office of the State Comptroller.  So the fact of the matter is that the budget process that has been so problematic for years will not be so for the next 9 more years because the State Comptroller has to approve every budget.

So there are some minor things in the Charter that we did agree on but the major issues that are missing are the ones that I have recounted to you (on ‘term limits’ and the ‘two-hat rule’).

Steve Possell: Westchester County has implemented term limits and as you said on the ‘air’ the other day and I’m going to paraphrase: “upon the institution of term limits this Draconian move hasn’t caused Westchester to split away and fall into the Hudson River yet”.  Have you had any direct communication with Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino, or anybody in the Westchester County government? When did this happen and how did the term limits work? To whom do they apply and do they deem it successful as of now?

County Executive Day: About 3 years ago term limits came into effect in Westchester and as I said I looked across the river at the other end of the Tappan Zee Bridge and Westchester was still connected to land. So clearly Westchester did not fall into the Hudson River over this. So term limits are not going to end the world. Some believe that is going to happen. I don’t know why! It has worked fine in Westchester; the County hasn’t collapsed; decisions are still being made. The whole learning curve of how you learn to be a good government is still going on. I mean it’s nonsense!

On top of that they also have a ‘two-hat rule’ which is something else that I submitted as part of the charter. If you are elected as a County Legislator or a County Executive the ‘two-hat rule’ applies to you in Westchester County just like it would here. If you have a job as a County Legislator you are an elected representative of the people. Don’t you think that taking a job in another level of government might not look good? Is that so difficult to understand? I am not pointing fingers at anyone and I am not saying that anyone is doing something wrong, but I don’t think it looks right. I really don’t! I think the temptation there is pretty obvious. I think the question of your motives becomes pretty clear at times.

If you are already an elected representative why do you want to take another job with another level of government (in the County, Towns or villages) at the same time? I think it looks horrible because I think appearances are important. How we look as a County is important. When we talk about economic development and bringing wealth here you Google Rockland County and you hear about corruption, FBI raids, investigations – it is nothing good – people going to jail. I made it very clear that we are going to change that perception.

So these are the kind of things that maybe don’t sound like they are important to people but I believe that they are critical to good governance and making sure that you (the public) have a belief in what is going on. That is what this is about!

You work hard every day; you have kids; you coach; you go into the City every day and you have got better things to worry about than to worry about how your government is being run and if people are doing the right thing by you. We (in government) should have ‘your back’ and you should be able to go to work, do what you have to do, make your money and pay whatever taxes you have to pay which are not insignificant (in Rockland County), spend some time with your kids and get some sleep. That’s what I am trying to accomplish here is to instill some trust back into this government because it woefully needs it.

I will continue to do this going forward every day!

End of WRCR comments

We the public should now watch to see how this legislature acts with respect to ‘term limits’ and the ‘no two-hat rule’. The Westchester County Executive has implement both proposals. The Rockland County Executive has been elected to do the same here.

However, it appears that the leadership in the legislature under Chairman Wolfe  is uncomfortable with the thought of even bringing these issues to a vote by our elected representative in the legislature.  If that is so then we shall be forced to ask if Democrat Chairman Wolfe will ever be prepared to act democratically or does he intend to exercise a Napoleonic complex until he is removed by the voters in November 2015?

Chairman Wolfe may avoid a vote in the short term but in the long term he will not evade the consequences of the citizens’ votes.

Picture Courtesy of: http://beagardner.com/2014/04/way-to-go-charliethe-two-hat-man/

About Michael N. Hull

Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

About the Author
Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

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