Monday, September 22, 2008

The Daily News' Hallelujah Chorus

It really comes as no surprise that the NY Daily News would be in the forefront of the campaign to convince Mike Bloomberg to over turn the term limits law-after all, the editors have been a regular Hallelujah chorus for Mayor Mike. So in today's paper we get the following panegyric: "Michael Bloomberg must stand for reelection to a third term as mayor in 2009. Run, Mike, run...Bloomberg and the city have both benefited handsomely from his service. For his part, the mayoralty transformed a once little-known businessman-billionaire into an internationally prominent public figure, one who was seriously and deservedly discussed for the presidency. And he must forge on."

Be still our hearts! But they do go on: "Put simply, Bloomberg knows what he's doing. And there's every indication that he's as fresh as the day he was inaugurated. It would be folly under these daunting circumstances to deny voters the chance to consider his vast experience and remarkable record when choosing a chief executive next November."

But that's a folly that the voters must be the ones to decide to change-but the News elides this serious obstacle: "To enable that, the law limiting mayors to two consecutive terms must be amended to give voters the choice to extend Bloomberg's leadership for four more years, should they so desire." Amended? The only way to properly do this is the same method used to encat it in the first place-a referendum.

The News ends with this rather amusing ditty: "Term limits were a good government reform. They were aimed at opening a political system stacked in favor of incumbents - a City Council and borough presidents who hung on forever. But mayors were never part of a permanent government." What exactly does this mean? And the concept of the permanent government has been quite nicely undermined to mean the rather mediocre governing class, instead of those power brokers that Newfield and DuBrul so exquisitely excoriated-and who Mike Bloomberg represents in almost a caricature of a Thomas Wolfe novel.

No, if the term limits are to be repealed, we need to follow Chris Smith's lead in New York Magazine:
"Which is one reason the mayor should act now if he’s serious about running for a third term. Giuliani’s personal popularity was soaring after 9/11, but his attempt to extend his stay in City Hall failed because it appeared to be (and was) blatantly anti-democratic. Bloomberg faces a similar hurdle: Even those who’d like to see him stick around are made queasy by the notion of changing the rules this late in the game. So Bloomberg needs to do it as transparently as possible. Sure, it would be easier for him to quietly back a City Council bill making the limit three terms instead of two, but that would smell of sneaky insider deal-making. Bloomberg should do it the hard way: He should ask that a referendum be placed on this November’s ballot. Calling for a vote of confidence would be sort of British, and essentially make this fall a one-man mayoral primary—certainly not a fair contest, but a good test of whether the city really wants him for four more years. Third terms are historically treacherous; Bloomberg could use a clear public mandate going in."

Getting the issue before the voters in a little over a month doesn't seem realistic; but perhaps a special election in January would do the trick. In any case with a property tax rise on the horizon-see today's NY Post story-it would be appropriate to ask the voters if they'd like to change the law on the mayor's behalf. After all, he told the Post: "Anybody that is in city government and hopes to run for office a year from November will have had to stand up and be counted on balancing our budget," the mayor said last week in a reference to council members he's going to ask to vote for higher taxes."

So let the fun begin, and let the mayor's Amen Chorus among the Best and the Brightest step up to tell their lessors just why Mayor Mike's continuance in office is actually good for all of us, and not just for the favored few.