Monday, March 08, 2010

Charting a New Course

Adam Lisberg picks up on a post we did last week that marveled at the fact that Speaker Chris Quinn looked as if she was parting ways with the mayor on charter reform-something that she has all too infrequently done over the past four years: "Mayor Bloomberg's new commission to recommend changes to the City Charter has stirred a quiet revolt among some of his closest allies. He named 15 people to the panel last week, telling them they had free rein to consider anything that would make the city work better. "Every issue will be on the table, and every voice will be heard," Bloomberg said. Two days later, though, some of the mayor's steadfast backers - like City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall - brought their complaints about the process to an Assembly committee."

The complaints, of course, center on the already too powerful office of the mayor: ""[The] process tilts too sharply toward mayoral power," Quinn said. "The current system effectively creates an electorate of one." Bloomberg's pursuit of unchecked power has always enraged his critics. Now it has irked his supporters, too."

As interesting and instructive as well is the defense of mayoral power from the mayor's hired choochum, (For)Micah Lasher. As the Polticker reported: "As for the commission's power to "bump" other initiatives off the ballot, Lasher said it's logical. "There is real value in enabling mayoral charter commissions," he said, "to place their proposals before the voters without a cacophony of conflicting or competing proposals. It is, therefore, reasonable that the proposals of charter commissions take precedence over proposals originating through other mechanisms."
And giving the City Council the ability to veto proposals by the commission would simply dilute the mayor's power, Lasher argued."

And that's wrong because? This defense is all too transparently silly-and, well, indefensible. There needs to be an unobstructed path for the voters to be able to place a charter revision idea on the ballot without the mayor having the ability to effectively kill it stillborn. And as for a cacophony of conflicting proposals, how is that such a terrible thing?

In 2003 Bloomberg put four or five competing and unrelated ideas on the ballot-along with his pet concept of non partisan elections-and the voters saw all of them very clearly; defeating each and every one by rather wide margins. What this city needs is a more robust system of checks and balances, with greater power given to the legislature-and to the peoples' voices.

So here's to the speaker and the Queens BP on this issue-and to the state legislature that needs to amend the charter revision process to reduce the level of royalty already too omnipresent in city government. And this push back from Mike's good buds is heartening. We'll give Lisberg the last word: "The mayor is already a piƱata for critics like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Controller John Liu and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who think the best way to raise their own profile is to beat up on his. Bloomberg has to deal with them through 2013. If allies like Quinn and Marshall start challenging him as well, it's going to be a long four years."