Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heavens to Betsy!

As the NY Times is reporting today, Betsy Gotbaum will not run for a third term as the city's Public Advocate: "In the interview, Ms. Gotbaum, who was elected in 2001, said that she could not in good faith seek re-election, given how vociferously she had opposed the term limits legislation pushed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and approved by the City Council. The measure extends the number of four-year terms city elected officials can serve from two to three...“It would be very hard for me to benefit from something that I fundamentally disagree with,” she said."

Good for her, and as Shakespeare once said (we paraphrase): "Nothing so much became her as her leaving." Gotbaum, who we have felt has been much too quiescent in her role-particularly since this mayor was badly in need of a hair shirt-leaves with as principled a stand as we've seen lately in city politics.

But we would be remiss if we failed to mention her work on school governance, where Gotbaum exposed a number of problems and fallacies of the mayor's school stewardship. If there were more such actions, we would be reporting her departure with a great deal more sorrow.

Which brings us to the race to succeed her, and we expect a lively battle: "The field of hopefuls to succeed Ms. Gotbaum will most likely include Councilman Eric N. Gioia of Queens, who has all but declared his intention to seek the job and has raised $2.5 million for the campaign; Norman Siegel, the civil liberties lawyer who lost in a runoff to Ms. Gotbaum in 2001; and Councilman John C. Liu, also from Queens. On Monday, Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, who had been campaigning to succeed the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, also appeared to be strongly leaning toward entering the contest."

We hope, particularly if Mike Bloomberg's coup is successful, that the Gotbaum replacement acts as the pit bull that New Yorkers need: "Scott Levenson, a consultant who has worked on many political campaigns in the city, predicted that whoever succeeded Ms. Gotbaum would be a more aggressive and confrontational critic than she has been. Among other factors, the candidates likely to run for Ms. Gotbaum’s job all opposed Mr. Bloomberg’s change to the term limits law and pointedly criticized him for it."

The campaign for advocate should help to dramatize all that is wrong with the term limits process, and should in addition help to frame the case against a Bloomberg third term. Let's hope so.