Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bloomberg and Clyde

In yesterday's NY Times, the intrepid Clyde Haberman once again inveighed against the term limit extension, a gambit that he labeled: "The Incumbency Protection Act of 2008." And it is thus, for sure, as council members grasp, much like death row convicts learning that the governor's on the phone, at the possibility that their deaths aren't imminent.

And Haberman gets it just right when he details how so backroom this deal really is: "Instead, with the support of fellow billionaires and an amen chorus of newspaper editorials, he worked behind the scenes to have the City Council change the rules all on its own. It would also mean that three dozen council members scheduled to leave office at the end of next year would get a chance to stick around for an extra term. Ditto for the public advocate, the city comptroller and the five borough presidents."

And those council members are moving with great haste to demonstrate proper obeisance to the royal will. As Liz reported first yesterday: "The term limits bills introduced today will be referred to the Government Operations Committee, and its chairman, Simcha Felder, has decided to hold two hearings to accommodate an anticipated high volume of speakers wishing to the heard on the subject. The first hearing will be heard on Oct. 16 and will start at 3 p.m. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the members are committed to staying "as long as we need to that day." The second hearing will start the next day at 10 a.m. (assuming it's not one long hearing extravaganza that goes all night)."

According to Liz, the speaker got a tad upset with the suggestion that the entire matter is proceeding with undue haste: "Quinn bristled at the suggested that the Council is rushing the term limits legislation and insisted no date has yet been set for a vote. (The next stated meeting is Oct. 23)." To us, this appears more and more like an almost perfect representation of a bum's rush.

And in the midst of the economic meltdown Haberman, for his part, muses about the wisdom of relying on the savior-like expertise of the prototypical business person: "The debate turns, too, on the desires and whims of a couple of billionaires: Mr. Bloomberg and Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics heir, who has a thing about term limits. Given Wall Street’s meltdown, this may not be the best time to argue spiritedly about how the moneyed class is a repository of wisdom."

We know that Hegel's aphorism, "The knife that wounds is the knife that heals," makes sense under certain circumstances but, in our view, these aren't those times. Bloomberg's expertise doesn't approach the kind of papal infallibility that his supporters appear to allege. Our view, and Haberman's is, let the voters decide:

"O.K., some officials said, why not hold a special election on term limits early next year? It’s doable. One argument heard against that idea is that turnouts in special elections are low. True. But are they lower than 51? “A couple of hundred thousand people voting is better than 51 council members,” said Betsy Gotbaum, the public advocate. Those several hundred thousand won’t get the chance if Mr. Bloomberg gets his way. He seems to have a preferred French quotation of his own. His is a variation on a line attributed to Louis XV. In the Bloomberg version, it is, “Apr├Ęs moi, moi.”