Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Democracy Sale Challenged

In the midst of what appears to us to be an epidemic of timidity, the Working Families Party has raised its banner against the leveraged buy out of New York's democracy. As the NY Times City Room blog first reported yesterday: "The Working Families Party began on Tuesday the labor community’s first major offensive against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to change term limit laws through legislation that would extend to three, from two, the number of terms the city’s elected officials can stay in office."

And once again, the refrain is, "let the people decide." As Dan Cantor told the gathering on the city hall steps: "“If New Yorkers want to extend term limits, then Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council should allow voters to make that choice,” said Dan Cantor, the party’s executive director, on the steps of City Hall. Mr. Cantor added: “This is not necessarily about where you stand on term limits or whether or not you think that Mike Bloomberg has been a good mayor. This about the rules of the game. And you don’t get to change them at the end of the fourth quarter just because your team wants to keep playing.” To which he added (from Azi): "Even Hugo Chavez had a referendum and abided by the results. Mayor Bloomberg should do the same.”

So, is this a trend? Will the unions begin to overcome their caution and start to speak up? We believe that much could hinge on the Lauder decision to buck the prevailing billionaire trend. If he decides to spend liberally, than his actions could embolden a lot of folks who are currently grousing, but lurking on the sidelines until they see that their upsetness can be marshaled with a cohort of the like-minded.

Once again, the speaker's position remains problematic. As City Room reports: "Speaker Quinn has not taken a position recently on term limits, though she said last December that she was against changing them “through any mechanism,” as she put it. At the news conference on Tuesday, she said: “I will come to my position, but I feel, as speaker, that I need to have consultation with my members, and I need a little more time to do that to a level that I think is appropriate given the significance of this issue.”

Now we begin to understand just how two phrases like "drawing a line in the sand," and "shifting sands," can exist in such exquisite linguistic tension. This manner of tension, however, can soon metastasize into a real life political donnybrook, as resentment builds over the way the mayor and the council are acting on this issue: "There was a palpable sense of resentment over the way Mr. Bloomberg negotiated his decision to run for a third term and the strategy he would employ to change the term limits law, which was twice affirmed by voters, in 1993 and 1996. Over the past few months, the mayor worked in private, reaching out to fellow billionaires and shoring up support for his bid among the publishers of the city’s three largest newspapers, all of which ran editorials endorsing his decision."

Here's Cantor's take, and the final word, on the backroom billionaires: "The media and business elite in New York seem to not be willing to hear the voices of regular people,” Mr. Cantor said, accusing the publishers — Mortimer B. Zuckerman, of The Daily News; Rupert Murdoch, of the New York Post; and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., of The New York Times – of trying to create “a 21st century Tammany Hall.”