I was one of a group of citizens who sued Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and the New York City Council, in 2008, for overturning term limits, preceding citywide elections in 2009. At issue was an amendment to the Charter of the City of New York, entitled Local Law 51, which was passed by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on November 3, 2008. It provides that members of the City Council, the mayor, the public advocate, the comptroller, and borough presidents are eligible to serve a maximum of three consecutive terms in office. It amended sections 1337 and 1338 of the City Charter, which previously provided for a maximum of two consecutive terms for these officials, and which had been enacted by a city-wide referendum in 1993.
Well, this past month, the Charter Revision Commission decided to revive the issue of term limits on the upcoming November ballot.
So we should be happy, right? No!
The problem is that the Commission is going to allow all current sitting members of the City Council to run for third terms even if the voters decide in November two terms are enough.
Here’s how it works. The Charter Revision Commission is a 15-member panel appointed by the Mayor. “You should decide what is the best for the city, and not what’s the best for any particular elected official,” Bloomberg was recently quoted as saying.
But it seems Mayor Mike has not held true to his own words. The evidence is there for all to read in Joyce Purnick’s, biography, “Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics.” She writes that in July 2008, Mayor Bloomberg went to a retreat in Idaho where he was convinced by Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kravis, and Richard Parsons to run for a third term. The mayor was also being told to run by Jerry Speyer and Steven Rattner.
At the time, the New York Post broke a story about the term limits scandal. Former Post reporter Angela Montefinise’s headline was, “Bigs Back Law Change to Keep Mike.” She reported that Big Apple business honchos wanted four more years of Mayor Bloomberg and were preparing to do whatever it took to help him stay in City Hall for a third term. Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, was quoted in the story saying that the business world considers Bloomberg its “first choice” and is primed to forge plans to help him. A business world source behind a Bloomberg run was quoted as saying that, “City Council legislation would be the most likely option they would pursue.”
Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman told Purnick, as relayed in her book, that the market crash of last year wasn’t the reason for Bloomberg running for a third term. “No, it was not the economic crisis, he wanted to run for a third term.” Now he claims that it’s not what is best for any particular elected official, but what is best for the city. Yet days before the City Council voted to overturn term limits, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 89 percent of New York voters said the issue of term limits should be decided by voters in a referendum, not by the City Council. So pardon me if I don’t believe the Mayor’s hollow words.
I believe that Michael Cardozo and New York City’s Corporation Counsel had to know that any council member seated under the current law would have a very powerful legal case for a third term. Many people said this was going to happen, and the Mayor’s legal team said nothing.
What will be interesting to see is how many current council members who voted against term limits would now run for third terms, and how many freshman council member’s who ran on a campaign of being against term limits will run for a third term. Just think, it could be 2022 before we have a City Council election without a third-term candidate.
Still on fire,