The United States is a great country.
Where else can the average citizen stand up to the government for what is right and not be afraid? We are a nation of individuals, where our right to challenge authority goes without saying. It’s in our DNA.
We also are a nation where no one is above the law. Not the President, not members of Congress, and definitely not our local officials. So, then, why should the top law enforcement officials of Suffolk County – the district attorney and the sheriff (along with the county clerk) – decide that the law no longer applies to them? While they may be entitled to their day in court, this inquiry is different because these are county officials challenging a county law they knew full well before running for their offices.
The Suffolk County referendum that passed in 1993 restricting all elected officials in the county to three terms of public service is legal and binding and is only being challenged because Mr. Spota is prevented from running for office again. As the “intervenor”, I am determined to see this law remain intact.
Due process, the Bill of Rights and constitutions were not given to us by the government. They were the result of an active and informed citizenry that was determined to rein in the power of the state and to ensure that the rights of the individual were stronger than the tyrannical power of the majority.
In this particular case, the Gang of Three (Spota, DeMarco and Pascale) are not so crude as to just disregard the current law. That would be the mark of rank amateurs. Instead, they ask the court for “advisory opinions” and make the claim that term limits don’t really apply to them because their offices were “created by the New York State Constitution” – that, somehow, the voters must have been mistaken by choosing to limit their terms to just twelve years. I wholeheartedly disagree with this position, as do many other voters in Suffolk County.
In addition to term limits, an issue being ignored by the political pundits is the fact that Suffolk County is one of the few I and R (initiative and referendum) counties in New York State. Why is that? Why are so many citizens deprived of this essential right to enact laws that their local legislatures will not? Probably for the same reason that state officials throw roadblocks in front of potential challengers to incumbents come election time - the preservation of power. Just ask Mayor Bloomberg.
The irony in this case is that I am appealing to the state to preserve the law against three government officials who are chafing under the restraints placed upon them by the public. The lawyers, the judges, and the plaintiffs all seem to know each other, and this does not give me much confidence that the law will survive. In addition, not one Suffolk County legislator has contacted me and offered any support. Can we still win? Definitely. But, we may have to go outside Suffolk County in order to uphold the referendum that passed overwhelmingly almost 20 years ago.
We are a nation of laws, not of “advisory opinions” and legal maneuverings. I urge the public to contact the offices of DA Spota, Sheriff DeMarco, and Clerk Judith Pascale and demand that they end this challenge to a law that most Suffolk voters would like to see remain in place. I still believe that this issue cuts across all party lines and it surprises me that both major party heads in Suffolk County, Republican John Jay LaValle and Democrat Richard Schaffer, have not been called on the carpet by the national party chiefs for staying on the sidelines during this debate.
This is exactly why we need term limits – to protect the will of the people from the politically ambitious, and to check the power of the state from becoming too great in the hands of the well connected and well heeled.
I think DA Spota’s attorney, Kevin Snover, summed up their position best when he revealed that the last thing they want is individual citizens claiming “the same basis and seek to intervene” in future cases of a similar nature. I think Mr. Snover should take a class on constitutional law and review the section on ‘limited government’ and individual rights.
Finally, I firmly believe that in the United States the individual still reigns supreme, not the party bosses and the well connected.
And, that is why we are still a great country.