Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Terms of Extortion

According to Dave Seifman's column at the NY Post, the possibility that the mayor will support a term limits extension strengthens his hand in negotiations with the city council on some major policy initiatives: "The possibility that Mayor Bloomberg will support an extension of term limits is going to provide him with a stronger hand than ever in his future dealings with the City Council. "They'll give him anything to get term limits changed," one council insider said."

Perhaps so, but we would think that this should evoke a Clint Eastwood response from the council-a call for the mayor to, "Make My Day," by publicly coming out and saying he supports what the council presumably is inclined to do. Without his public endorsement, the council could be played on a continuing basis, with the possible extension as a carrot always just out of reach.

This is a part of what the NY Daily News is arguing in its Sunday editorial. "Stop being coy," Mayor Mike, is the News' refrain: "Mayor Bloomberg is playing it altogether too cute in sending up flares that he might like to run for a third term in 2009. If that's his intention, he should simply make the call.Bloomberg must spare New Yorkers a prolonged period of will-he-or-won't-he speculation. Are you in or out, Mayor Mike?"

Than there's all of those who are making plans to abide by the terms of the current law, and who are running for new offices. As the News points out: "The mere possibility of a Bloomberg candidacy would chill, if not freeze, the plans of qualified would-be successors, depriving them of the time needed to raise funds and do all the other spade work for campaigns. Potential contenders need to know sooner rather than later whether the mayor plans to stay on the field of battle. The stakes are too serious for an extended tease."

Particularly if the mayor uses the interregnum to try to get stuff passed at the council, initiatives that the legislature wouldn't ordinarily support. As the Post indicates, Willets Point may be a test case here: 'Topping the list is the rezoning of Willets Point, a $3 billion project to create a gleaming minicity out of acres of dilapidated industrial and commercial space near Shea Stadium. But 32 of 51 council members, siding with business owners who don't want to move, have warned that they won't go along without significant changes. The buzz among the New York delegation at the Democratic convention in Denver was that there could be a trade: term limits for Willets Point."

How tawdry! Our view is that if the mayor wants term limits, it's his initiative and he should come forward and own it publicly. He should tell us, straight up, why he and the city council should stick around for another term, even though the voters view of all this has been made abundantly clear. If we were the council leadership, we would just tell the mayor to take a stand, and not allow itself to be subject to blackmail. In the words of President Jefferson to the Barbary Pirates: "Millions for Defense, but not one cent for tribute."