Monday, October 20, 2008

Trust Fund Kids

Inadequate Hearing
On Term Limits Bill;
Section 38 of Charter
May Bar City Council
From Self-Perpetuation

We last wrote Tuesday (Oct. 14) about term limits, and then paused for the required public hearings which were held Thursday and Friday. Although the hearings were poorly managed and many members of the public were excluded from testifying, while others were rushed through two-minute bites, what did come through were the large numbers of ordinary people (not just candidates and 'community organizers' who came on their own time and dime to speak against the Bloomberg-Quinn plan for mutual term extension.

Although the public was told that witnesses would be heard in order of their registration to speak, that turned out not to be the case. For example, this blogger registered with the sergeant-at-arms as directed at about 11 a.m., two hours before the hearing was scheduled to start (1 p.m.).



  1. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Subsection 4 of Section 38 of the City Charter would seem to apply to all elected offices, not just City Council, would you agree?

    Yes, City Council is an easy target to lambaste, especially at this juncture, after having been successfully browbeaten, co-opted and minified over the past few years by none other than Mayor Bloomberg. So I think it is really our Mayor who deserves the lion's share of the blame for this latest attempt to frustrate the electorate's desire to have term limits.

    And yes, Michael Bloomberg can be commended for having used his vast private resources in the public interest. Having done so while serving as Mayor would be as commendable as it is novel -- provided it came with no strings attached.

    Lately, however, there have been lots of strings attached. Not too long ago he sought to advance his congestion pricing initiative by privately bankrolling ads and phony front groups and promising rewards or threatening punishments to members of the City Council who were facing constituent opposition to new tolls. He wielded his personal fortune as a potent political weapon.

    I believe it is a serious and perhaps even novel threat to our democracy when a person elected to high office can use his immense personal fortune to tempt, reward or intimidate either elected officials, or office seekers, civic and union leaders or community service organizations. The quid pro quo has risen to a new level.

    Mayor Bloomberg has by now all but destroyed the usefulness, independence and credibility of the City Council by having transformed the Speaker into his whip and personal representative.

    As you pointed out, the two days of term limit hearings were conducted in a style reminiscent of certain politically unsavory systems in countries we don't have to name.

    Is this is what the Mayor means by non-partisan politics? Promises of fund raising support, "promoting" elected officials to executive positions in government and even in his own private company -- that will take care of the distinction between Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, or Independent.

    Most of us have been taught that the idea that "Ends justify the Means" is incompatible with our Constitution and system of government. Some of the things that work in the big private boardrooms are just not appropriate when it comes to the People's Business.


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  3. The election next week is probably going to have heavy voter turnout. An opinion: in view of the national draw card, now is not the best of times to ask people to vote in favor of extending incumbents' terms.

    Thanks to Starquest, I now have heard of Section 38 subsection 4 in the Charter, which prohibits the Council from amending term limited eligibilities without a public referendum. I believe that the appeal to overturn the recent Council vote will be successful on that basis.

    I'd like there to be a referendum in, like, April. The idea of extending term limits has some merit, as does the idea of keeping term limits. It should be alright to revisit the question. Yes, I know the mayor said he wasn't interested in doing that. (<--There's some light food for thought.) Perhaps a leisurely drive for a Spring referendum could be organized by a Councilmember who truly believes in the concept of extending term limits.

    I voted against all this term limit stuff in the first place! So did 505,009 other people. It's not like the 1996 vote was 586,890 to 0.