Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Only on My Terms

It now appears that we have two billionaires who want to regulate the rules of the game in this town-and their shifting positions on the issue of term limits really sets heads spinning. First up is the mayor who doesn't get from the NY Times' Clyde Haberman, the kind of royal treatment he has come to expect:

"In 2002, a prominent New Yorker’s blood was boiling over an attempt in the City Council to fiddle with the city’s term limits law. It was the voters who had imposed those limits in two separate referendums a few years earlier, this man said. “I would oppose any change in the law that a legislative body tries to make,” he said. Three years later, another effort was under way in the Council to monkey with the law, this time to extend the limit to three terms from two — to 12 years from 8. The prominent New Yorker’s blood was still up.
“This is an outrage,” he said in a radio interview. The people had spoken, he said. He added: “There’s no organization that I know that would put somebody in charge for a long period of time. You always want turnover and change. Eight years is great. You learn for four years. You can do for four years.”

That, as they say, was then, and this is now-so the man in the mirror has altered his principle in the name of pragmatism. Ah pragmatism, thy name is Mike Bloomberg; who now argues that the fact have changed because of the country's economic crisis-never mind that this whole soap opera began long before the current market meltdown reared its ugly head.

But, as Haberman aptly informs us, it was the term limits law that bequeathed to us the little cuddly billionaire who now is saying that current events makes him indispensable. Are argument all along has been that the current fiscal mess militates against a third Bloomberg term much more so than it argues for it; our belief here is that we need a government innovator and not this raise taxes/slash services paint by the numbers pedestrian.

Which brings us to the other billionaire, Mr. Ron Lauder. Frankly we're somewhat concerned about the man's mental stability since his shifting positions on the term issue raises some real competency questions. As City Room blog observes: "After threatening to fight Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to seek a third term, then agreeing to sit on the sidelines, then waffling, then backing down again, Ronald S. Lauder is tossing a new — and potentially serious — hurdle into the mayor’s path (at the same time that another billionaire, Tom Golisano, is pledging all-out opposition to the plan). In an interview, Mr. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir, said he strongly opposed allowing members of the City Council now serving their first term to remain in office for three terms.“I think it’s disingenuous for anyone to promise them a third term,” Mr. Lauder said by telephone on Monday night."

It all gets us to longing for the days of Martin Luther's, Here I Stand. Expedience has been raised to the level of principle in this town and, if the Q Poll is any indication, these shifts are likely to roil New York's political landscape for many months to come.