The voters of New York City have twice voted by referendum to limit local elected officials to two four-year terms. But now Mayor Michael Bloomberg is attempting to circumvent the voice of the people and pass legislation that would award himself and the City Council a third term in office.
Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party (WFP) – a key member of the opposition fighting the legislation – deftly characterized Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-democratic power grab when he said, “We’ve had two citywide elections on this very topic. Even Hugo Chavez had a referendum and abided by the results. Mayor Bloomberg should do the same.”
The key issue here isn’t term limits – whether one is for or against them – but whether we are a democracy. This is a case study of one man – our own version of an oligarch – trying to rig the rules of the game for his own benefit. He has decided that he’s indispensable in these times of financial crisis, said that a referendum is too “distracting and time consuming,” and moved to ram through “a plan that was hatched with a handful of fellow billionaires and business moguls.”
And it’s gotten quite ugly.
There are allegations that Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have threatened undecided council members, suggesting that committee chairmanships could be lost and funding for districts cut as a consequence of votes against the Bloomberg plan. And the New York Post wrote, “Mayor Bloomberg showered cash [from his slush fund] on key City Council members with the power to kill a term-limits extension bill in the last year.”