updated 11/3/2008 6:55:23 PM ET 2008-11-03T23:55:23

Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a scolding at a bill-signing ceremony Monday from New Yorkers furious over how he changed the city's term-limits law, but he signed the measure anyway and is now clear to seek a third term.

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The City Hall ceremony drew a long line of people seeking to testify, many who disagree with the way Bloomberg and the City Council quickly approved the change.

As Bloomberg sat at a desk with his hands folded, critics stepped up to a microphone and told him he was ignoring the will of the people, who twice approved term limits through referenda in the 1990s.

"Please Mr. Mayor, do not subvert the will, and the good will, of 8 million New Yorkers," said Patty Hagan. "Do not lift that pen and do not sign this disgraceful term-limits extender bill."

'Diversity of opinion'
After four hours of public comment, Bloomberg said he had heard the "diversity of opinion" but was going to sign the bill.

"There's no easy answer and nobody is irreplaceable, but I do think that if you take a look at the real world of how long it takes to do things ... I just think that three terms makes more sense than two," he said.

It was just one month ago that the mayor announced he was reversing his long-held opinion that the law should not be changed. He argued that the city needs him to stay in office and manage its finances through the economic downturn.

The council held two hearings and narrowly passed the legislation on Oct. 23, which gives the mayor and dozens of other officeholders the option of running for a third term. Under the previous law, they were limited to two consecutive four-year terms, which would have forced Bloomberg and two-thirds of the council out of office next year.

Dozens turn out on issue
Typically, just one or two people show up to speak about a bill, but on Monday, there were about 140 people representing both sides of the issue.

Jimmy McMillan, a Vietnam veteran who said he plans to run for mayor next year, spoke with his back to the room because he felt Bloomberg had turned his back on struggling New Yorkers.

"I suggest you step aside and let term limits do their job," he said. "Your time is up and you must go."

Supporters agreed with Bloomberg's contention that his expertise as a former CEO was crucial to helping the city weather the financial storm.

"We have chosen the mayor to lead our city in the right direction, and he will continue leading us," said Placido Rodriguez.

The mayoral election is next November.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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