So Bloomberg has convinced the New York City Council to vote to overturn the City's term limits law. Even Christine Quinn, the Speaker of the Council, voted to throw out the law that New Yorkers approved in a referendum both in 1993 and again in 1996. I thought Quinn had a bright future in New York politics. Who can say what this vote will do to her career. (Is she the Colin Powell of the New York City Council?) The New York Times reported that Bloomberg's political operatives even leaned on charitable organizations that are beneficiaries of his philanthropy, asking them to support Bloomberg's plan.
Term limits have served as a poor substitute for campaign finance reform in this country. Since the Buckley v. Valeo decision was rushed through the Supreme Court in time for the 1976 Presidential election, courts have essentially ruled that cash is speech. Therefore, those with the most cash speak loudest. Who has more cash than Bloomberg, who spent $160 million of his own money on races in 2001 and 2005?
This vote leaves me wondering a few things. One is that supporters of Bloomberg's move argue that New York is in crisis and only Bloomberg, with his business acumen and experience in office, can serve effectively as mayor now. Do they suggest that Bloomberg would withhold his insights and assistance on behalf of New Yorkers unless the law is changed? Negate the will of the voters or Bloomberg won't play ball? What kind of public servant says that?
Also, New York is not Toledo. The bench is deep. Eight million people living in this city and only one can serve as mayor? New Yorkers need to get to know some of the other good people working in the five boroughs, some of them perhaps not wealthy enough to spend $160 million of their own money for a PR makeover, but who nonetheless might make an effective public servant. The mechanism by which they could do that is called an honest election, something that Bloomberg and his lackeys in the Council believe New Yorkers neither need nor want.
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