Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sharpton and Weingarten: Perfect Together?

We went to another press conference yesterday where Richard Emery, father of the lawsuit that eliminated the old Board of Estimate, excoriated Mayor Bloomberg and the city council for their efforts to self perpetuate. Emery told the press that, "While the city council has the presumptive right to change the charter, there were enough intervening legal variables to mount a challenge to the methodology-especially in the context of the self serving nature of the effort."

That being said, there are two actors in this drama who've yet to be fully heard from-the Reverand Al Sharpton and UFT head Randi Weingarten. Arguably, these two could, if they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the effort, really shape the outcome of the debate. As the City Room blog reported, Sharpton may be ready to commit: "The Rev. Al Sharpton has been largely silent about the prospect of extending term limits by a vote of the City Council. But Mr. Sharpton said Wednesday morning that he was leaning against the legislation proposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that would allow the mayor and city officials to run for a third term."

As Sharpton told the Times' Jonathan Hicks: “I’m leaning toward those who advocate in favor of making changes in the law through a referendum. But I haven’t come to any final determination yet.” Clearly, the Sharpton involvement would raise the profile on this issue-while at the same time underscoring the Voting Rights Act aspect of a potential legal challenge.

And it would counteract the Bloomberg monetary offensive in the pews of some of the area's Black churches: "In fact, a group of a dozen or so black ministers, in a letter to the Council on Tuesday, voiced their support for the extension of term limits. The most prominent was the Rev. A. R. Bernard Sr., the pastor of the huge Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, who endorsed Mr. Bloomberg in 2001 and 2005 and served on his mayoral transition team after his election." Hallelujah! And pass the plate.

On the union side, Ms. Weingarten would be a potential deal breaker. As the Times reported: " 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.The party — which is backed by some of the city’s most powerful unions, like the United Federation of Teachers and 1199 S.E.I.U., the largest health care worker group in the state — has a simple objective: Let the mayor know that there are many people out there who are very unhappy about his course of action."

Weingarten's active participation may become the Archimedian point for a divided labor movement; her swinging into action along with Rev Al would make a formidable one-two punch. Clearly, this isn't yet a fait accompli, and the rumblings continue to grow.