From The NY Times
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will not be on the ballot in 2010, but the issue that many New Yorkers lambasted him over in the 2009 election very likely will be: term limits.
“We need as a commission to be heard this November,” Matthew Goldstein, the chairman of the New York City Charter Revision Commission, said on Monday night, during a hearing at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Asked afterward to elaborate, Mr. Goldstein, who is the chancellor of the City University of New York, said, “I haven’t heard any commissioner opine that we ought to pass in November about term limits.”
Matthew Goldstein in January 2010.Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times Matthew Goldstein in January.
The statement was hardly a surprise. After all, when Mr. Bloomberg decided in the fall of 2008 to upend the city’s term limits law (which had been approved twice by voters) to give him and other city officials a chance at a third term, he promised that a charter commission would revisit the issue. And when Mr. Bloomberg appointed the 15-member panel in March, Mr. Goldstein said that term limits would be one of many issues on the table.
Still, Mr. Goldstein’s comments represented the most definitive statement yet that term limits would be on the ballot this year — as opposed to next year or even in 2012, as some people have suggested. Mr. Goldstein also indicated that the commission was far from a consensus about what the term limits ballot question would be:
For example, should voters be asked to return to the old system of limiting city officials to two terms? Should voters be asked to make three four-year terms the standard? Should voters be asked to consider a multi-tiered system of term limits, like two terms for the mayor, and three for the City Council members and other officials? Or should any plebiscites be legally protected, so that future City Councils that wanted to emulate the actions of the “Bloomberg 29? (as the Council members who voted to extend term limits in 2008 were derided by critics) would be barred from doing so?
“What we have not had is really the substantive discussion about how to shape” the ballot question, Mr. Goldstein said. “That to me is where the tire hits the road.”
Mr. Goldstein’s comments capped a three-hour hearing that consisted of two distinct parts. The first featured the testimony of three experts on term limits — Gregory Carl Schmid, general counsel of U.S. Term Limits, a group that supports term limits initiatives; Patrick J. Egan, a professor of politics and public policy at New York University; and Richard G. Niemi, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester.
That part, about one hour long, often had the feel of a long academic seminar. (Several commissioners kept busy by checking their BlackBerrys constantly, while at least one had trouble staying awake.)
Oddly enough, not once was Mr. Bloomberg mentioned by name during that first part.
“The charter commissioners dare not speak Mayor Bloomberg’s name,” joked Gene Russianoff, senior attorney of the New York Public Interest Research Group, during the hearing.
The second part, by contrast, featured the remarks of more than a dozen of the 60 or so people who attended. Half of those who spoke were elected officials or were connected to elected officials (including Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, who urged that issues other than term limits be pushed off until 2012).
But the others, by and large, expressed lingering outrage over Mr. Bloomberg.
“Don’t make the work of this committee the height of irony,” said Michael D.D. White, who runs a blog called Noticing New York. “The hallmark of the Bloomberg administration has been the accretion of unchecked power in Mayor Bloomberg as a single all-too-powerful individual.”
Perhaps the best line was delivered by Henry J. Stern, the former parks commissioner under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He warned that term limits — while a good mechanism “to shake things up” — would not make the perceived weaknesses of government, or elected officials, vanish.
“It will not ensure the integrity or the ability of anyone in particular,” he said. “But at least it will provide for a rotation of scoundrels.”
He also dismissed concerns that term limits would insure that elected officials would be more focused on looking for their next job.
“At the end of two terms, if you can’t find yourself a decent job, you don’t deserve to be there,” he said.
The term limits hearing was the first of five that will focus on issues that are being considered by the commission. The next one, on June 2 at Lehman College in the Bronx, will focus on nonpartisan elections; subsequent ones will examine government structure, public integrity and land use.
Bloomberg’s Checkbook Makes Cameo on “Law & Order”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has long complained, good-naturedly, about getting cut from a scene in “Sex and the City.” But at least he was mentioned, sort of, in the closing scene of the series finale of “Law & Order” on Monday night.
The final scene featured Lt. Anita Van Buren appearing at a fund-raiser organized by her detectives, Cyrus Lupo and Kevin Bernard. Lieutenant Van Buren has cancer, and the fund-raiser — called a “1013,” referring to the police code for an officer in need of help — was intended to help her defray her medical bills. And, in a moment channeling “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the detectives declared that the fund-raiser, a smashing success, included a check from the mayor.
Mr. Bloomberg, of course, is a billionaire who is known for being generous with his checkbook, both for charitable causes and to further his political career. So perhaps this was the show’s wink-wink way of acknowledging the mayor. After all, it was just two months ago that Anthony Anderson, who plays Det. Bernard, appeared with Mr. Bloomberg for an event starting a program to help women and minorities get jobs in television and film production.
When asked about the episode, Stu Loeser, a spokesman for the mayor, said the mayor did not watch it.