Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chicken Little Wylde and Mayor Mike

As Yogi Berra might have said, "It's deja vu all over again." This time it's the fiscal crisis that is leading business leader Kathy Wylde to call for the extension of the mayor's term in office-mirroring the calls after 9/11 for the extension of Rudy's mayoral tenure. Here's how Azi at the Observer reported this quite expected cheer leading: "Turning to politics, Wylde said the financial crisis makes a “powerful argument" against Bloomberg being term-limited out of office.
“I think, and I don’t know this, but my guess is that he could have made up his mind this weekend,” she told me, referring to whether the mayor will decide to seek a change to the term-limits law so he can run for re-election."

Not to be out argued, our old buddy Mark Green rebuts this silliness over at the Daily Politics: "While today's Wall Street crisis is real, it'll significantly play itself out over his next 16 months as Mayor and doesn't come close to The War in Europe and 9/11 as calamities leading chief executives to rethink a third term in 1940, which worked, and a three month extension in 2001, which rightly failed. The 'indispensible man' argument is so Putin-like as to be unAmerican - and remember that it was Mike who earlier observed that he was against an undemocratic term limits extension since I've always said that the next guy can do it better. In a debate with himself, Mike was right last June but wrong today. If Wall Street's gonna be the excuse, why not just cancel the election and hire Buffet?"

Indeed so; in fact, this kind of crisis might only exacerbate all of the mayor's weaknesses, and at the same time encourage his imperiousness. For a full explication of the entire term limits debate take a look at the Gotham Gazette's analysis. The Gazette has a good section that analyzes what it calls, "constituent backlash." Here's a quote from Dean Birdsell over at Baruch: "This is not a good way to be having a debate," said David Birdsell, the dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. "It should not be a debate about individuals. It should be about structure of choice." For that reason, some members argue any change should be done prospectively for the next class of council members. The council, as a legislative body, could get all the benefits of a longer term (including, the enhanced ability to stand up to the all-powerful executive branch, experience to get larger policy initiatives passed, less reliance on staff members, etc.) without the political ramifications."

Would the backlash throw out the incumbents? "If thy made any change take effect immediately -- benefiting themselves -- political consultants say the council might see a backlash from the electorate, who could vote them out of office anyway. "There is a danger that the voters may revolt and might go in and elect (challengers)," said Shienkopf. On the other hand, the incumbents' popularity, particularly the mayor's, is precisely what's fueling the debate. More than 70 percent of voters approve of Bloomberg, according to a poll this summer by Quinnipiac University, but 56 percent don't want to see a change in term limit law."

Perhaps, but the mayor's popularity might turn out to be a thin reed, as voters see him reneging on an important public promise. And whatever popularity the mayor has, it doesn't extend to the council that would probably be seen as the major culprit in a self serving exercise. It does, however, make for one interesting political debate.