Thursday, October 09, 2008

Getting Randy

In yesterday's NY Times, former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro laid out the case against the "harm" caused by the mayor's effort to self aggrandize-and also outlined the legal challenge if the council decides to enact Mayor Mike's legislation into law: "From an ethical perspective, the mayor is setting a troubling precedent for our democracy. But he is also setting himself up for more practical challenges. As someone who has spent time in city government, led two charter revision commissions and litigated against efforts to loosen term limits, I believe there are significant legal issues that could derail the mayor’s effort altogether."

Such as? Mastro makes the legal argument against self aggrandizement: "Moreover, it would be a conflict of interest under local law for council members to vote themselves the opportunity to serve an additional term in office. The charter could not be clearer in barring such self-dealing: “No public servant shall use ... his or her position as a public servant to obtain any ... private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant.” And any violation of that prohibition exposes the public official to fines and potential criminal sanctions."

Adding to this legal smell test violation, is the backroom deal the mayor tried to orchestrate with term limits proponent Ron Lauder in order to get the fellow billionaire to back off; in all, the public interest is taking quite a beating. There's also the Voting Rights Act question that Corporation Counsel Cardozo-threatening to tarnish his family legacy-actually brings up as a rationale against a spring referendum: "In addition, such a change in our electoral process could prompt federal Voting Rights Act review, first by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and then by the federal courts. Why? Because such a change has the potential to undercut minority representation: there are now more members of minority groups serving on the council than there were before term limits were instituted."

With an African American Comptroller waiting in the wings to run for mayor, and a Hispanic borough president looking to run for the vacant comptroller's seat, this is a compelling issue. Mastro finally offers the mayor this sound advice, advice that the ego less Bloomberg is unlikely to follow, so concerned he is with the welfare of the public: "No matter what one’s view of term limits, process matters. For the mayor, there’s still time to get this right: convene a charter revision commission now, submit this question to the voters in a special election and trust them to decide."