New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is poised to announce that he will run for a third term - which means that he will first have to sign a law that dismantles a term limits statute New York City's voters approved twice. He'll do it after a vote by City Council members who are similarly eager to keep their own jobs.Bloomberg's $20 billion fortune makes this self-serving scheme possible: He has the money to buy television ads that will bury any opposition. It is telling that his intentions were confirmed only after one major obstacle was removed: Ron Lauder, the cosmetics tycoon who bankrolled the term-limits referenda in the past, dropped his opposition to changing the law. Lauder was viewed as the only one with the money to foil Bloomberg on this.Although Bloomberg himself once declared it would be a "disgrace" to undo a law that voters supported in two referenda, the editorial boards of the city's three major daily newspapers have all signed on. They are blind to a fundamental problem with Bloomberg's tenure as mayor: The excessive accumulation of power in the hands of someone who is both the city's chief executive and one of the nation's wealthiest citizens. One example: As mayor, Bloomberg pushed to collect fees for driving into Manhattan. As a private citizen, he donated $500,000 to the Republican majority in the State Senate, which, contrary to its anti-tax, pro-suburb tradition, then supported the mayor's fee.Bloomberg's willingness to use his wealth to further his mayoral agenda is, to my mind, much more serious than many relationships banned by New York's conflict of interest laws, such as the prohibition on allowing county political leaders to hold elective city office. He lavishes funds on non-profit groups, an important political power base in New York, and lures other officials with his largesse.The argument is made that Bloomberg must get his third term because he is the best choice to lead the city with Wall Street in crisis. It is debatable, given his close business relationship with Wall Street companies. A little more distance might even be preferable, and lead to policies that do more to develop non-financial sectors of the city's economy. And Bloomberg himself is the best argument against the claim that he is indispensable in a time of crisis. He, too, stepped in capably in a time of crisis following 9/11.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.