Friday, October 24, 2008

The End of the Beginning

We the expected council ratification of the mayor's third term completed, we now expect the most interesting phase of the attempted coronation to begin. As Daily Politics pointed out-let the heckling begin: "Not long after his term limits victory on the floor of the Council, Mayor Bloomberg exited City Hall en route to the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. gala at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown. To say that he was not well-received by some of the people who were standing outside would be an understatement. He was met with screams of "Sellout!," "Bloomberg hates New York!", "Liar" and even, "You Bastard; we hate you!" One man was heard to say: "Tell him to get the hell out of town."

We believe that this is just the start-and we expect resentment to build along with a contentious and very public legal battle; one that has already begun: "Here we go! Within minutes of the Council's passage of Mayor Bloomberg's term limits extension bill, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan challenging the move...The suit makes Laurence Laufer's Municipal Home Rule Law argument, which is basically that any local law is also subject to a mandatory referendum if it "abolishes, transfers or curtails any power of an elected officer," and also claims that the plaintiffs' civil rights would be violated if the bill becomes law."

Some of the latent anger that has erupted can be gleaned from the vitriolic nature of some of the comments on the City Room blog. One in particular, stood out for us, since it hits on the appearance versus reality gap that we've been harping on: "Did Bloomberg change while in office, or are we finally just seeing who he really is? One of his great strength’s when he was elected was that he wasn’t part of the political machine - beholden to know one. Now he wants to hijack the political machine? It’s wrong and it’s wrong to pressure charities to support his machinations. I thought that was philanthropy, not buying favor. I guess I’m still naive after all these years."

No, not naive, just bamboozled by a (much more than) two bit phony; and the final chapter of the mayor's ersatz philanthropy has yet to be written-and when it is we expect that the foreword will be dictated by Al Sharpton (writing as Ralph Elllison's Invisible Man). Here's a thought experiment: If Mike Bloomberg had an average bank account, would the city council have been voting today on this term limits bill?

As for the speaker's expression that there was wide support for the council's action-"wide" ain't got the dimension it used to have: "When Ms. Quinn said it was “ludicrous” for critics to suggest the bill was the product of a “back-room deal,” a chorus of boos and jeers erupted from the balcony. Ms. Quinn said the bill had been the subject of vigorous discussion, including “two, well-attended public hearings, 20 hours of public hearings and a vigorous debate.” “Support for this bill is broad and deep,” she said, citing union officials and former elected officials like Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Mayor Edward I. Koch."

Gee, what is it about 89-7 that is difficult to understand? (now that's what we would call wide) But the picture of the speaker embracing Lew Fidler after the vote yesterday, an exquisite MasterCard moment if we've ever seen one, is almost worth the final council ratification of the mayor's imperial ambitions. And check out this picture of Councilman Recchia at the Wonkster; doesn't he look like the cat who swallowed the canary?

All the news, however, wasn't bad. Our council woman, Gale Brewer, stood up strongly for principle, and we were extremely proud of her statement since she is philosophically opposed to term limits, but respects the will of the people in her district: "Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer of Manhattan said she was in an “ethical bind” and said she felt she was open to “accusations of hypocrisy.” She decided to vote no on extending term limits." In addition, if she had voted the other way there's little doubt in our mind that she wouldn't be beaten.

But now we enter into the next phase, a period where our theory of the expected deconstruction of the Myth of Michael will be put to the test. The smart money's on the mayor; but look what happened to the smart money over at Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. P.T. Barnum's observation that, "You can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people," will be put to a severe test in the weeks and months ahead. We might not be characterized as smart money, but we see a real shot here for the underdog.