Monday, July 28, 2008

Third Times's Charmless

The Permanent Government types can't seem to give up-Mayor Mike has been so good to them that they are feverishly exploring the ways to keep him in office for another term. As the NY Post reported yesterday: "Big Apple business honchos want four more years of Mayor Bloomberg - and are preparing to do whatever it takes to help him stay in City Hall for a third term. Sources close to the mayor say his deep-pocketed pals are "aggressively pushing" him to run again - his term ends in December 2009 - and are strategizing on how to change term-limits law to make it happen. "We believe it's very feasible," said one source. "If he decides to run again, there are people who want him, and those people are planning to do everything they can. It is a very, very strong movement."

And well they should. Mike has been real good to the real estate developers, and not so good to the small businesses that have suffered under the development scythe. The movement underscores all that we have commented on concerning the myth that the mayor is "above" the special interests because he self-funds his campaigns.

Those who propound this view, predominately the mayor himself, along with his sycophants and toadies, view special interests in the most narrow sense-generally those labor and small business groups that cultivate political ties in order to advance their goals. What this view misses is the extent to which the ruling elites in this city-those highlighted by Newfield and Dubrul in their Abuse of Power treatise-have cultivated and propagated a worldview around the notion of development. This world view is embedded in a "mobilization of bias" that infuses the thinking of editorial boards, consultants and those elected officials who act to implement policies that reflect this bias.

So Mayor Mike isn't above those interests that are central to power in NYC, he embodies them; and that thought of his departure fills these power elitists with dread: they've never had it so good, and the attempt of Peter Vallone to aid this effort is simple misdirection. Vallone, according to the Post, is concerned with preserving institutional memory: "Meanwhile, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., now a lobbyist and lawyer, told The Post he is currently putting together a team of about 15 good-government people to lobby the public to support longer term limits..."If the public really knew what this does, that it pits elected officials against each other, that it eliminates institutional memory . . . they would never vote for this," Vallone said. "They thought it was a bunch of politicians out for themselves. It's not."

Well, Vallone is narrowly correct when it comes to the City Council, and we believe that 12 years is necessary in order to generate a real system of checks and balances. We don't need to extend the mayoralty, however, and Ed Koch's comments are ironicall to the point: "I believe in the concept of term limits," said former Mayor Ed Koch, who served three terms. "But I don't think eight years is enough. Twelve is enough."

Any neutral observer of Koch's tenure would agree that his last term did little to bolster his legacy. Pete Hamill captures this: "There was something touching about him too. When the lights went out and the rallies were over, there was a sense of loneliness in Koch -– something that made him more human. Then you think about what happened in the third term when so many people he trusted betrayed him, and his sense of isolation grew. He should not have had to go through that." Hamill is, of course, referring to the corruption scandals in the late 1980s.

So eight is enough when it comes to the mayoralty-and given Bloomberg's regal pretensions and arrogance we need to be zealous in the protection of the term limits law. The fact that the real special interests are advancing this only means that the idea is worse than it first appears.