Monday, September 15, 2008

Interminable Debate

According to Adam Lisberg at the NY Daily News, city council members are awaiting divine intervention before making any moves to extend term limits: "The natives are restless. But they still fear the king. They want to keep their jobs, their taxpayer-funded offices, their special parking permits - and they're willing to ignore the will of the people to do it, because they think Mayor Bloomberg is on their side..."The members we've spoken to aren't going to go out there and run it up the flagpole unless the mayor runs it up the flagpole first," said one person deeply involved in the discussions. "Nobody wants to go out there and have him veto it and then end up looking foolish."

Carpe Diem-Not! It looks as if no one down at city hall wants to get too far out in front of Mayor Mike on all of this: "The votes are there to pass it," said Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), one of the Council members doing the counting. "Some would only vote 'yes' if the mayor would be willing to sign it - I would guess as many as 10. If the mayor opposed it, I don't know if it would ever come to a vote."

So we guess that,as we have oft stated before, it's up to Bloomberg to come out publicly here if he truly wants to void the will of the people on this issue-and run the risk of tarnishing his legacy, as it were. That is Mark Green's point, expressed well in yesterday's News: "Bloomberg has come to his fork in the road: One route ends with his reputation and legacy intact as an accomplished, nonpartisan mayor. The other leads to a dead end where no one can ever again believe what he says, which convulses ongoing city elections, and that allows him to run and then either lose because of a public backlash or win ugly, by the weight of his wealth." Indeed. And Green is also on point with the following: "It's one thing to change your mind on, say, whether the tax code should impose a 30% or 38% top rate or whether to continue supporting a war after it goes bad. It's quite another thing to do a 180 when you are ignoring voters to benefit yourself. The issue is not so much term limits, as Queens Councilman John Liu said, but who decides. "Is it 52 people - the mayor and 51 council members - or 8 million people?" Reasonable people can differ over whether there should be term limits at all, or if so whether it should be two or three terms. But reasonable people cannot allow ambitious politicians to veto voters."

Perhaps making a bad situation worse is the following tidbit from yesterday's NY Post: "Mayor Bloomberg wants to ensure that Christine Quinn keeps her post as City Council speaker before he decides whether to extend term limits, according to political insiders. "This is a lot more real than people realize," said one insider, speaking of Bloomberg's flirtation with a third term. "What happens to Chris Quinn is a big issue for him."

So Mayor Mike may not only want to give himself a third term, he may also want to insure that his "partner in government" rides along in a self made bicycle built for two: "The insider said the mayor is making calls to line up support for Quinn so he wouldn't have to deal with a new speaker if the term-limits law is revamped. She and Bloomberg have formed an unusually close political alliance over the last three years, a sharp contrast to the mayor's antagonistic dealings with the previous speaker, Gifford Miller."

But there's no guarantee of the speaker's longevity: "Even if Bloomberg decides to support a change in term limits from eight years to 12 - a move that would allow him and Quinn to run again for their current jobs - there's no guarantee she'd retain her powerful leadership position in 2010...Some council members complain that Quinn has been too accommodating to the mayor, especially in the last budget, which required them to slash $129 million in council priorities to restore cuts the administration made to schools."

The one compelling reason, then, for giving the city council three terms-bolstering its institutional power-would then be wiped out in the manner that Austrian independence was wiped out in the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. And in the process, all checks and balances would go out the window and a real coronation would inexorably follow; a real disaster for good government in NYC.