Charles Ragusa, the Democratic District Leader of the 47th Assembly District covering Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Gravesend is demanding that New York State officials start having term limits.
But he stopped short of saying his proposal would apply to his own state representative, Assemblyman William Colton (D-Gravesend, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights), with whom he has a very close relationship.
Colton, Ragusa, City Council Member Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend) and Female District Leader Nancy Tong are key members of the United Progressive Democratic Club, 29 Bay 25th Street in Bath Beach.
“It’s not for this person or that person, it’s for everyone. But Bill is one of the good ones. But most of them are there for many, many years, they don’t answer to anyone,” added Ragusa.
Colton is one of the longest-serving state officials in the borough having been an assembly member for 22 years. This is a relatively short time compared to Brooklyn dean of the assembly, Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint, Williamsburg), who has been in office for 46 years, and Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Bensonhurst, Sunset Park), who has been in office 32 years.
Ragusa, who has been a Democratic District Leader, which is a party position and unpaid, for 36 years, is proposing that legislators be limited to five, two-year terms, for a total of ten years in office, and that statewide offices including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller be limited to two, four-year terms, for a total of eight years in office.
According to the state constitution, there are no term limits on the aforementioned elected offices.
“A ‘political class’ has developed where some elected officials remain in office for so long that they forget that they are public servants. Instead of answering to the people, they are bought and paid for by power brokers and lobbyists,” said Ragusa.
Ragusa claims that the lack of term limits is the perfect element to give a seed to corruption and scandal at the state level. In the last couple of years alone, more than two dozen New York state legislators have stepped down or been convicted in a variety of corruption cases, including former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“If you look at Board of Elections filings, some legislators have few, if any, contributions from local residents and businesses. They are hauling in so much money from special interest groups and lobbyists that they don’t even bother having fundraisers,” continued Ragusa.
Earlier this year, Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, was convicted on corruption charges and former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign after The New Yorker published a piece alleging abuse and alcoholism against the politician. The string of cases has made New York the hot bed for a culture of corruption.
The longtime Brooklynite would also support a constitutional amendment that would introduce term limits for U.S. Senators and Representatives.
“The President, the Mayor and City Council Members are term limited to eight years in office and the system works,” said Ragusa. “The same guidelines should be applied across the board.”