Friday, October 03, 2008

Here He Comes to Save the Day-Mighty Mouse is on the Way

We listened to Mike Bloomberg's tortured attempt to deny that ego played the major role in his decision that he would allow us New Yorkers to vote for him for a third term-and we resisted a strong gag reflex. His entire announcement reeked with a smug, self congratulatory tone. The NY Times gets it right this morning: "Mr. Bloomberg contends that an unexpected economic crisis motivated his quest to seek a third term as mayor and revise the city’s term limits — a position that reverses himself, the law, and to many people’s minds, the will of the voters, who twice approved the restrictions. But it is clear, from interviews with the mayor’s friends and advisers, that there is another powerful force at play: Mr. Bloomberg’s ego."

And in the process of doing so, as Dan Janison observes, he threatens to embarrass himself-something his rich courtiers will never be able to honestly tell him: "First let it be said that we've had much worse mayors -- certainly in the last 40 years. And we can't look into a man's soul. But you can only guess that this alert and amiable high-roller, the self-advertised non-pol, who has had so many fine moments, has begun to embarrass himself, whether he knows it or not.
This had to be a sad day for him, or at least a hard day, given all the energy it must take to summon this kind of public obfuscation."

Indeed, when his contortionist editorial buddies over at the NY Times editorial board couldn't find any logical syntax to describe why we need to over turn the will of the voters-except for the care and feeding of mayoral ego-it's certainly understandable that Bloomberg would be stretching for a reasonable policy rationale for the volte face. As Janison points out: "After eight years of denouncing any change in term limits, calling such efforts at least once "an absolute disgrace," Bloomberg said today it's too late for a new referendum. The fact used here to hide his basic lie is that it's too late only for this November's ballot. He was not made to explain his vague dismissal of the prospect of a special election, say, next spring, before the mayoral nominations. He didn't deny this was legally possible. He instead mumbled something like "Special elections have their own problems..." (Maybe, like, it's easier to lose them and you can't spend millions attacking an opponent)."

And, of course, when your the little guy who lacked any real natural charisma-and who probably wasn't the most popular chick magnate as a young man-it is easy to fall prey to the adulation of an entire claque of rich flatters-not to mention a city as well: “We are in an extraordinary period of time, which will be followed by economic consequences that are totally unpredictable,” said the developer Jerry I. Speyer, when asked why he urged the mayor to run again. And financial crisis aside, those close to Mr. Bloomberg have said that he has come to love almost every aspect of being mayor — from the actual civic achievements, to the considerable celebrity."

So it's all about Mike-and it's unseemly for anyone to attempt to sell selflessness as the man's primary motivation-but that's exactly what Speyer tries to do: "Mr. Speyer, the developer, said that regardless of the debate on term limits, the mayor’s decision to run again should be viewed as an act of selflessness. “He could go off and do anything he wants,” Mr. Speyer said. “He could go to the proverbial island and do nothing. He could run a foundation and gives tons of money away, become the head of a university, go back into business.”

So let him-and spare us the Mr. Indispensability spiel. As one commenter to this morning's NY Daily News story says: "cancel all elections and let's crown him "Mayor for Life." He'll put on a purple robe, carry a jewel-encrusted walking stick, and address us as his "subjects." In a companion piece the News, as much a cheerleader as anyone, makes the point as well: "The city needs him for four more years, Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday - and anyone who doesn't like it should vote for someone else."Given the events of recent weeks and given the enormous challenges we face, I don't want to walk away from a city I feel I can help lead through these tough times," Bloomberg said."

Which takes us to the city council. a body that is moving with uncharacteristic alacrity to move legislation on this affront to the voters: "City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said on Thursday that legislation to alter the city’s term limits law would be introduced on Tuesday, paving the way for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Ms. Quinn and more than 40 other elected officials to stay in office four more years. The Council’s vote on the measure — which Mr. Bloomberg has pushed for behind the scenes — could come later this month, Ms. Quinn told reporters at a news conference."

Whoa, where's the fire? So much for calm deliberation-and giving the folks enough time to discuss this reasonably without all of this self-serving bogarting; and underscoring that Congressman Weiner is right about all of this: “This is fundamentally about a back-room deal, substituting the value and judgment of the citizens of New York City for their own,” Mr. Weiner said during a news conference just outside the gates of City Hall. “This is the quintessential inside deal between two ends of City Hall.”

How will it all turn out? Remember Ron Lauder, the guy who brought us term limits in the first place? Well, this billionaire may be having second thoughts since his "agreement" with Mayor Mike was for a one time exception-and the council is looking to make this a permanent change: "Council Speaker Christine Quinn disclosed Thursday that the mayor's bill will request a permanent extension of term limits instead of a one-time waiver."

As Liz is reporting, Lauder isn't pleased-and his displeasure means that the people may have, in the parlance of Broadway, an Angel: "During his Blue Room press conference, Bloomberg indicated the term limits bill he expects the Council to pass will include a temporary extension from two to three terms. The mayor said he would like to see a public referendum sometime in the future on whether that change should be made permanent. But then Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, in no uncertain (ahem) terms, that the the bill the mayor would send to the Council will call for the term limits extension to apply in perpetuity."

Here's the Lauder group's contradictory comment: "With a push already underway for a total repeal, it is very clear some politicians are willing to use the financial crisis as a convenient cover to kill term limits. This forces a tough decision about how to best preserve New York City term limits into the future. Accordingly, New Yorkers for Term Limits founder Ronald Lauder has agreed to support a one-time, one-term extension of term limits until the financial crisis has passed. This emergency measure is a temporary extension, not a total repeal."

So, as we have said, let's get ready for battle here. Next stop city hall, where the speaker will be forced to contradict everything she has said previously on the subject-it will make for an exquisite Gilda Radner response to the voters: "Never Mind!"