Thursday, October 02, 2008

Advise and Dissent

According to this morning's NY Times, the Bloomberg continuation plan may be running into a major snag as a result of the mayor's idea that a term extension should only apply to current office holders: "City Council members grappled with uncertainty and anger on Wednesday as they tried to digest — and adjust to — news that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is to propose revising the city’s term limits law so he can run for a third term...More than a dozen council members said they would be uncomfortable with any legislation that would grant a third term only to the mayor and other current office holders, rather than those elected after them, saying such a measure would be transparently self-serving."

Apparently, this is even too self-serving for those who are looking to be self serving: "We have to ask ourselves if it’s fair to pass a one-time extension that will serve one class of council members and the incumbent mayor. In my personal opinion, the answer is no,” said Joel Rivera, a Bronx councilman who leads the Council’s Democratic majority and favors abolishing term limits altogether." Indeed it is so.

At the same time, council members are extremely upset over the fact that the mayor seems to be caucusing with all of the city's elites but ignoring, or simply taking their support for granted, before advancing this bowdlerized concept of term limits: "They decried the mayor’s strategy as overly exclusive, and were especially upset that the mayor had solicited support from newspaper executives and Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics heir, which suggested to them that the plan had been hatched by a select group of billionaires and power brokers, solely with the mayor’s interests in mind. “This is really no way business should be conducted at City Hall,” said Councilman John C. Liu, a Queens Democrat who is against term limits."

This is the exact idea that we've been talking about-the kind of proposal that looks as if it were concocted in the exclusive clubs of the city's monied class. Dan Janison captured this in his Newsday Spin Cycle blog post: "Turns out the Bloomberg camp and the Council were cooking up this coup well before the plunges of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman, Merrill, AIG or WaMu. What will Bloomberg do about a recession from City Hall, anyway? Hike property taxes again? Sell computer screens so you can watch the next Dow crash?..Fernando Ferrer, the wry Democrat beaten by Bloomberg four years ago, noted recent reports of how Lauder and city tabloid publishers were courted behind the scenes to back the change. Ferrer quipped: “I suppose, now that billionaires and moguls have worked this out among themselves, we mere mortals have to fall into line.”

Chris Smith, over at New York Magazine also captures the elite junta concept: "Instead of putting the idea of a term-limit waiver to the test of a public referendum this fall, Bloomberg will endorse City Council legislation to change the rules. He’s likely to win: The deal will no doubt include job extensions for City Council members, too. Bloomberg and his strategists know better than anyone that money is still power in this city, but by lining up Rupert Murdoch, Mort Zuckerman, and Ron Lauder as key backers, Bloomberg comes across as running for chief oligarch, instead of for another four years as mayor."

All of which means that the mayor's initial idea will have to be scrapped-so it appears as if he will not announce the details of his proposal today. As the Times reports: "Because of that, the mayor is unlikely to discuss details of a proposal on Thursday, when he is expected to announce his intentions to revise the law and seek another term. Putting forward a proposal only to have it rejected by the City Council would be an almost unheard-of setback for the mayor, who has almost always won approval of his measures from the Council. So the mayor’s aides are likely to canvass members to find agreement on legislation that would pass."

Even the mayor's closest aides have been shocked by all of this. As the NY Daily News reports: "People are shocked. It's a real game-changer for people's lives. People were working, doing their job knowing at the end of '09 would be the conclusion," a source said. "I think people are troubled when it looks like one person is more important than the system. Everyone here is struggling with that."

So, as we stated yesterday, get ready for a nasty New York City street fight-along with a messy legal challenge. As the News highlights in another article: "Extension of term limits by a City Council vote will trigger lawsuits, foes say. "People are leaving messages on my answering machine, 'Please fight this,'" said civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel...Siegel thinks the courts might frown on the Council adding a full four-year term for all covered city officials. "There's a due process argument that government cannot change the rules in midstream and that government cannot make up the rules as it goes along," he said."

And it appears that Comptroller Thompson isn't shying away from the fight. As Crain's is reporting: "Asked if he will run even if Mr. Bloomberg does, Mr. Thompson said the mayor’s move to overturn term limits could backfire. He also questioned the rationale of keeping the mayor for a third term.“I’m not so sure there isn’t going to be a strong negative reaction from the voters,” Mr. Thompson said. “I don’t think Mike is the only person with a financial background. There are others. Am I one of them? Yes.”

So in spite of NY Post articles like this-ones that search and find just the pro-Bloomberg voters they are looking for-reaction in the street has not been overwhelmingly popular. Ad the Times underscores this morning: "Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, who is in favor of extending term limits, but only by voter referendum, said he encountered many voters on the streets on Wednesday who spoke with an unusually cynical tone about Mr. Bloomberg, a popular mayor projecting the image of an independent-minded reformer. “There is tremendous respect for the mayor, and that this is so unlike the mayor,” Mr. de Blasio said. “You just don’t change the rules when you’re in office just to keep yourself in office,” he added. “I know that we’re in a moment of crisis, but the notion that this one mayor is indispensable is one that I reject out of hand.”

This entire episode is bound to get even more fractious as voters begin to understand what the mayor wants to do for his own self interest; and, no matter what the Post opines about the quality of Mayor Mike's potential successor, the people may really understand that this is about Bloomberg's ego, and the concern pf the monied elite that the next mayor might not as slavishly reflect their own interests as the "above politics" incumbent has done. So while the Times rightly tells us that third terms have not been charms, it is our view that it is a tad premature to speculate about this before all of the uncertainty in this arrogant move is resolved.