Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Signing Off-Over and Out?

So the mayor signed the term limits extension bill and we're really wondering where all of this is going to lead. What did strike us was some of the eloquence of the opponents of the measure. As the City Room blog tells us: "The mayor — who seemed subdued, tired and perhaps a bit humbled as several members of the public berated and even yelled at him — made brief remarks before signing the bill, acknowledging that the debate had been difficult, and even painful."

Just wait Mike, it's gonna get worse as the fiscal difficulties begin to mount and the mayor is forced to do some really unpopular things. Still, it is hard to see the mayor actually being humbled; and really humbled doesn't come until you suffer a real electoral defeat. His rationale for the change of heart on the subject was kinda hollow to our ears: "There’s no easy answer, and nobody is irreplaceable, but I do think that if you take a look at the real world of how long it takes to do things — we live in a litigious society, we live in a society where we have real democracy, and lots of people have the ability to input their views and approve or disapprove projects — I just think that three terms makes more sense than two."

All of this is simply more jackstuff in the case of Mike Bloomberg-and that's because of the way this mayor's wealth so fundamentally alters power relationships and electoral advantages. It's bad enough that someone is able to spend $170 million to get elected; it's egregious for the same democracy subverter to use that money advantage to end run the popular will.

Which is exactly what upsets so many folks-and is why Bill Thompson proclaims on the Daily Politics blog that, "democracy is dead." As Liz writes: "Thompson echoed a point raised by a number of people who spoke at today's public comment period, noting the irony of the mayor's decision to sign the term limits extension bill into law, circumventing two public referenda, the day before voters go to the polls to cast their ballots in an historic presidential race."

Of those that were able to get down to city hall to voice their opposition, one young man from the East Side, Danny Shapiro, was particularly eloquent in confronting the mayor: "You failed to engage the public in any meaningful debate or discussion, instead, working with the City Council to pass this bill with only two weeks of its introduction. The back-to-back City Council hearings were a circus and inaccessible to New Yorkers. Hundreds of people were turned away, either due to capacity or constraints, or waited all night to testify. … You’ve ignored us, instead speaking only with either those who are influential or with those who have influence. You say you want to give voters more choice, but not the choice to keep term limits as is."

And the Bloomberg use of the mantra-"giving people choice," was particularly discordant to our sensitive ears: "The one argument against term limits that I’ve never had a great answer to is the argument that when you have term limits, you do limit the public’s choice. I feel that this time, the public should have a choice, and while I’m still in favor of term limits, it is seriously something that everybody should think long and hard about."

As the Politicker points out, the mayor's now simply "unsure" how he feels about term limits. He had been sure, when the issue didn't involve him directly, which is as good a definition of solipsistic as we have ever come across. For Mike "choice" is a prime cut as long as it's Bloomberg meat that's being served.

That argument is, of course, rendered specious by a quick review of the real world of NYC politics-where incumbent advantages so often makes a mockery of choice. The city council incumbency return rate is in the high 90% range; which is why the folks opted for term limits to be able to guarantee a circulation of elites. This stance is given more credence when someone is able to spend unlimited millions doubling down on incumbency. That's not a choice, but an echo of the purchase of the democratic process.

Which is why, in Panglossian fashion perhaps, we think that this could spell the beginning of the end for any number of our incumbent protectors-including Daddy Warbucks. The mayor has scraped the veneer off of his manufactured image; after which it becomes difficult, even with all of his money, to recover ground. A commenter at City Room gets the last word: "The people who support the mayor just don’t get it. It’s not about whether he’s been a good mayor or not. The people voted twice for term limits. That means that the people want term limits. The mayor and council members are there to represent the people. That is the oath they took. They willfully went against the will of the people they swore to represent."