Thursday, January 07, 2010

The New Adventures of the Old Christine?

The NY Times analyzes the Christine Quinn situation-and tries to understand what her game plan might be on the road to the mayor's office in four years. And her political future is complicated by her close relationship with the mayor, considering that she will have to, most likely, navigate a Democratic primary if she hopes to succeed him: "A few weeks before Election Day, Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council, met with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a diner in Manhattan. Ms. Quinn had not yet taken sides in the mayor’s race, snubbing the Democratic nominee, William C. Thompson Jr., and infuriating some of her colleagues who viewed her as too cozy with the mayor. Over coffee, Mr. Bloomberg assured Ms. Quinn that it would be all right with him if she endorsed his rival. “Do what you have to do,” the mayor told her, according to two aides who summarized the conversation."

This game of Giant Steps ("May I") doesn't surprise us considering how she has closely hewed to the mayor's line for the past four years. But now, she has to be more agile and walk a line between subservience and independence: "Ms. Quinn declined to discuss the conversation. But the story encapsulates her complicated relationship with Mr. Bloomberg: even as she was publicly declaring her preference for his rival, she first received the mayor’s blessing."

In her acceptance speech yesterday she did try to outline her independence-and actually made the jaw dropping observation that the council has been a check on mayoral power over the past four years. But the Bloomberg shadow looms large; and the perception that she isn't her own woman haunts her political prospects: "Now, as Mr. Bloomberg’s once-shiny political brand is losing luster, Ms. Quinn confronts a thorny question: Can she thrive on her own?"

This is particularly challenging because the field for 2013 is already large and threatens to metastasize-with left leaning and WFP fav de Blasio poised to confront Quinn at every turn: "The question has taken on new urgency for Ms. Quinn, who aspires to be mayor, as she attempts to lead a suddenly rambunctious City Council at a time when a new class of political leaders, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Mr. Thompson, has emerged."

And then there's Kingsbridge Armory vote-a signal that the Times evinces as a sign of a new found independence: "There are already signs that she is recalibrating a relationship with the mayor that helped cement her transformation from left-wing housing activist into a citywide political force. Since the Nov. 3 election, she has allowed the Council to override two mayoral vetoes — on plans to ease parking restrictions and to build a giant mall in the Bronx — dealing Mr. Bloomberg a series of very public defeats."

We're all for recalibrating-and if Quinn wants to recapture her old activist spirit, we are all for it. But it won't be easy for her, and her biggest fans may prove to be her undoing: "It may be tempting for Ms. Quinn to preserve the status quo. Offending Mr. Bloomberg would most likely mean alienating his powerful network of wealthy friends, many of whom represent the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, like the financier Steven Rattner and the cosmetics heir Leonard A. Lauder. Ms. Quinn has cultivated ties to that world, seemingly becoming the mayor’s heir apparent in the process."

And how's this for a possible Kiss of Death? "Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, which represents business leaders, put it this way: “The way she has handled the speakership, and issues that are important to the business community, make her a favored candidate to succeed the mayor.” But such support cuts both ways. It could aid her in a mayoral run in 2013, but it will fuel a central line of attack against her: that she is just Bloomberg Lite."

Ten years ago, we collaborated with Christine in the successful effort to keep two unwanted Costcos out of Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea. There was no better and more effective community advocate than that Christine Quinn. In the interim, however, she has changed-evolved perhaps.

If she is to make it to the next level, she needs to regain what she once was, while at the same time exhibiting the maturity that we expect in a credible candidate for the city's highest office. There is a lot wrong with the way Mike Bloomberg has governed this city-and room for Quinn to articulate her own unique vision. We only hope-for the city's sake-that she is able to do this. Real checks and balances is only a good thing.