The Terms of Term Limits: Bloomberg and His Most Recent Innovative Endeavor

11/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When a city, county, state, or country undergoes challenging times--whether they be of political, social, or economic nature--the public often craves stability as much as they acknowledge the necessity for change. Now in the city of New York's case, Mayor Bloomberg is certainly not what needs changing. In fact, according to a Quinnipiac poll completed in August, his approval rating is hovering around 70%, with equal numbers for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents (doesn't he virtually belong to all three of those? Ha!) No, our mayor is not the problem. In fact, the current crisis did not originate in the city or even in the state. This crisis has created the perfect storm in which a good mayor can extend his stay at city hall for another term.

Michael Bloomberg has two things on his side. The first is of an existential nature: people are losing homes, jobs, and an altogether sense of stability. Second, this instability has nothing to do with him. Maintaining a strong leader while the federal government makes massive changes to try to save our country's economy and constantly-fading international hegemony feels like a warm safety blanket for us New Yorkers who are, ironically, frightened of chaos and disorder.

But wait--we're only talking short term here, right? If I were a betting woman, I'd say that this financial situation will take some time to work out--no doubt, we'll all have to do some compromising on our lifestyle--but we will bounce back eventually. Even though many will argue that our country is more politically isolated than it has been in years, there is also a completely global economy, with international institutions, and buyers and investors that have their money in every edge of the market. Economically, we are less isolated than during the 20s, and while another "depression" is a possibility, I would argue that a Depression with a capital "D" is unlikely.

The point I'm getting at is that, while a Bloomberg fan myself, I wonder about what amending the charter for term limits will do in terms of setting a precedent for years to come. Term limits have a long history. Like most other governmental institutions and laws, they originated in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I remember sitting in history class at The Brearley School in 5th grade and learning about how, in the Roman Republic, the highest positions all had term limits of either one or two. We learned that this was what democracy was all about--elected positions were meant to be held for a "term" because the world was always changing and the importance and duty of each elected office changed with it.

Of course, extending a good and effective mayor's limit by one term isn't so dangerous or dramatic. I don't think Lord Acton, who famously wrote "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely" is turning in his grave over our little city's current dilemma. But precedent is certainly something to think about. Many federal and state officials are even frightened of altering ancient elements of the constitution. Oh right. That's part of the reason that the state of New York won't allow me to marry my girlfriend, isn't it? Oh yeah.

Personally, I'm a Bloomberg fan. I'm only 25 years old, but I remember my parents' discontent with Dinkins, and well, I just can't get on board with Rudy. I'm not surprised to hear, by that same Quinnipiac poll, that when asked who they would like to see elected to mayor in 2009, 57% are undecided and 21% name Bloomberg, leaving just 22% for the rest to share. Further, rumor has it that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is on board with Bloomberg seeking a third term. She's expected to make a statement on Monday, and if she advocates the legislation, there isn't much standing in Bloomberg's way of four more years. Quinn is planning a run for mayor herself, but my guess, from what I know of her personally and politically, is that she will support Bloomberg's third term if it is in the best interest of the city. She already has my support for her campaign, whenever it happens, and an honorable move such as that would further secure it.

So perhaps we will see Bloomy in office for a third term, and most likely, it will have a positive effect on the state of our city. I applaud his administration for giving the public the stability that it craves, but acknowledge that it should be viewed as an exception, and that moving forward, we do our best to respect the basis of why "term limits" were in fact instated in the democratic process.