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Bloomberg to end term limits

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.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, 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).



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Thanks for making the case against Bloomberg. My knee-jerk reaction upon hearing the news that he was running for a third term was to think that I have always opposed term limits, I have voted for Bloomberg and think he is a good mayor, so why not? However, I have been seeing too many knee-jerk reactions lately. For example, Sarah Palin is being investigated for abuse of power. The knee-jerk response of so many Palin supporters is that her ex-brother-in-law was a jerk who deserved to be fired, so why the fuss about how Palin tried get it done (allegedly)? In other words, what does it matter how elected officials use or abuse their power, as long as you agree with the end they were seeking. I don't buy that.So I have to give Bloomberg's attempt at a third term more thought.

Like David Nickol (and, I guess, the newspapers), I'm at least partly inclined to say, well, Bloomberg has done a decent job, so why not let him continue. But Paul, what you say about the combination of wealth and power is certainly sobering. In Bloomberg's case, his great wealth has produced, or at least enabled, a complete and completely frank indifference to public opinion. He's petulant when criticized, and never hesitates to accuse his constituents of "whining." That can be a good quality in a civic leader -- I'm a big fan of the smoking ban, so I'm glad he ignored the outcry and the doomsday scenarios when it was first proposed. But he has also been shockingly callous when addressing complaints about construction-related accidents or the poor management of the MTA. If I could see that he had any sense of accountability, I might be less uneasy about letting him mess around with laws and regulations as he pleases.

From a distance, it strikes me that Mayor Bloomberg has done a creditable job at an almost impossble job.I'm not a big fan of term limits, but if that's the law when you took office, and now want to make ahange when your term(s) are expiring, I am deeply suspicious.I don't think the issue is so much competence (I'm not so sure of that of City Council members), but the need to retain power (at what cost?)I think of the broken fictional mayor in Hogan's Goat who proclaims all he wants is "to keep me ofice til the day I die."

This article is a sobering reply to the gratuitous acceptance of Mr. Bloomberg's decision by most of the print media. Bloomberg's committment to constant luxury building, his disdain for the preservation of small businesses, his enormous tax gifts to the sports teams of NY, while they raise their prices into the stratosphere, are only some of the ways that he has served only the upper strata of new yorkers. The cost of living in the city has exploded, while the mayor sits by and says "that's life". Thanks for writing the article.

I agree with Bob that from a distance Bloomberg has done a very good job in running a very complicated city, and my sister who lives in Brooklyn loves him; however, is he the only person in a city of 8,000000 who can do the job? The gentrification of New York is great if you have the money. Where would many of our parents have found a place to live under this administration? How many of us who have left the city for one reason or another, could move back to the neighborhoods we left. Aren't we the first to criticize other coountries' dictators when they want to change laws to extend their terms? We were ready to leap on Putin, but he found another way. Maybe Bloomberg can.

Manhattan is now an ugly place. It is a stone wilderness. One looks out the window in most places to more stone. Unless you are in the Commonweal office and other places. Bloomberg has to acknowledge that this crisis happened under his watch. If we cannot get a capable leader, then it is more of a problem than we realized. We have seen people like this before. Let him go.

In some senses, Manhattan -not New York City- was a place of stone and high rise,But the seaport, the view along the Hudson from lower Manhattan walking, Central Park (of course), the Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, the views at the glorius Columbia sports complex in the fall at the north end tip, and even though it's probably a bit more of a fortress than when I was a kid, Carl Schurz park and Gracie Manision.And there are so many other treasurers for the mind therein New York City, the Museums, operas, the theatres on and off Broadway, the botanical gardens in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the Bronx zoo,etc.Blomberg still presides though over a city where the economic differences and the problem of living there affordably is much more problematic. Basically making it there has surely become harder for the little guy.

Thanks for these comments. I'll remember that comparison to Putin. Maybe we need a prime minister in NYC. It led me to draw an analogy to FDR's attempt to pack the Supreme Court. He had the praiseworthy goal of lifting the nation out of the Great Depression, but still shocked many with his disregard for the integrity of the system. Likewise, the integrity of the system is more important than the need for Michael Bloomberg to continue as mayor of New York. If he feels so strongly about it, he should find a suitable successor and support him or her. If term limits are going to be done away with, it shouldn't be done by politicians trying to preserve their jobs.

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