Death to Democracy!

Amidst all the good news about the upcoming Presidential Election, it’s easy to believe that the “fabric of democracy,” as John McCain referred to it in the last Debate, is about to prove itself fully intact and dressed to impress, despite its gradual unraveling during the eight years of the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, that fabric lies in tatters in New York City this morning, after the City Council yesterday voted to abolish “term limits,” thereby paving the way for billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term next year. This in direct contradiction of the will of the people,

“as expressed in a 1993 voter initiative that established a limit of two consecutive terms and a 1996 referendum in which voters rejected a Council-led effort to change the limit to three terms.”

Term limits are a controversial issue. Because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, they’re an extremely useful reality check on Presidents, Governors where mandated and, yes, Mayors. (British readers: wouldn’t it have been a relief to have both Thatcher and Blair forced to step down after two terms?) At a more local level of the democratic process, where many good people (and many bad ones) work for comparatively little income on behalf of their constituents’ well-being, they appear less justifiable, and I sympathize with New York City Council members who are also held by the public referendum to two terms in office. But, hey, that’s the will of the people. You already knew that when you ran for office. And you don’t have the right to overturn that will of the people, as expressed in two referendums, just because your billionaire Mayor doesn’t want to give up his own absolute power.

Protestors in the balcony at City Hall yesterday.

If you’re coming fresh to the subject – and I admit, no longer living in New York City, this has not been top of my priority list the last couple of months (thanks Tom!) – you may simply ask: why not put the issue back out to the voters as an initiative in next year’s Mayoral election? But then you may have already guessed the answer: because Bloomberg, restricted to two terms, wouldn’t be able to run in that election. Why not hold a special referendum in the next few months? That’s a much better question. Apparently, there isn’t time to do so (cough, cough). Besides, even if there was, it would cost the city at least $15 million. Bloomberg is worth somewhere approaching $20 billion (assuming he doesn’t have his fortune invested in the stock market). He financed his election campaigns out of his own pocket. He could just as easily do so for a special election. (Would that be legal? I don’t know. But then I don’t think what City Council did yesterday is legal either.) Besides, the City has a budget running in the billions. If the City Council truly believed in representing the people, they would find a way to let the public have their say once more. But no. Bloomberg wants to stay in office and he’s prepared to bully his Council members to go along with him.

The vote was close: 29 to 22, and kudos to those in the minority who stuck to their guns. But hey, here’s a fun statistic:

“Of the Council’s 51 members, 35 would have been barred by term limits from seeking re-election next year. On Thursday, 23 of those members voted in favor of extending term limits, and 12 voted against.”

Yes, I know, he doesn’t look dangerous.

Every single one of those Council Members who voted for the Amendment, which will allow them to run for re-election should they choose to, claims to be a Democrat. All three (count them) of the City’s Republican council members had the decency to vote against it. You can’t always judge a democrat by their party affiliation.

After all, Bloomberg was a life-long Democrat who switched to the Republican party so as to run for Mayor, and this past year switched his party registration to Independent, leading many to suspect he was planning a run for President. How does an overwhelmingly democratic city like New York vote for a Republican mayor in the first place? Ask Rudy Giuliani. After running against a hapless David Dinkins in 1997, he served two terms as a Republican Mayor – and in the wake of 9/11, tried to get the City Council to give him another three months in office. The Council said no. As Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn noted yesterday, voting against the extension of term limits:

“The city of New York has never, ever in the history of our nation postponed a transfer of power, regardless of the circumstances,” she said, citing an editorial in The New York Times in 2001, when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sought, without his success, to extend his term by three months in the aftermath of 9/11.

At the point that I left Brooklyn, it felt like Letitia James was our Councilwoman: she was speaking up strongly against billionaire Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development. But by the strange borders of the electoral system, we were actually represented by David Yassky, who yesterday voted for the Amendment. Shame on him.

You may ask, why is it so important that Bloomberg holds on to the job of Mayor? I mean, it’s not like he needs the money, right? We come back to the issue of absolute power corrupting absolutely. In his seven years in office, Bloomberg has presided over a New York City that has grown progressively safer – progressively more suburban, you might also argue – and until the unfortunate collapse of the stock market this year (not that Bloomberg, who made his fortune out of selling stock market information, could have predicted that, of course), seemed to be doing pretty well financially, as well. His approval ratings are high, around 70% – which is still not as high as Rudy Giuliani’s in the wake of 9/11 when the City Council brooked no such nonsense about keeping him in office. And they won’t be so high this morning – let alone next year, when Bloomberg has to find a way to keep the City running without all the taxes generated by Wall Street profits. (I will be so glad I’m not living there at that point.) As befits the self-made billionaire businessman, Bloomberg thinks that the City can’t survive without him. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one. Crony Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. of Brooklyn appears to agree:

He urged his colleagues to extend term limits, citing the economic crisis. He paraphrased Abraham Lincoln, who ran for re-election in 1864 during the Civil War, as saying, “When crossing a river you don’t swap horses halfway.”

Following that logic, what the hell are we doing having a Presidential Election right now? Why don’t we just let Bush stay in office for a third term and lead us out of the economic crisis? After all, he started it; he should finish it. Right? (Besides, what if the horse that you’re riding across that river is drowning? Would you still not want to swap it? What if the river was too deep and it made more sense to turn back? Of all pathetic metaphors…)

You may wonder what I have against Bloomberg. I’d like to say the answer is nothing, that my only consideration here is with the “will of the people” and the fact that no Mayor should attempt to rise above it or rewrite rules that, twice in fifteen years, have been before public referendum. And that I feel like the people of New York City, where I lived happily for 17 years and still spend more time than any other city, have just been kicked in the teeth. But unfortunately, we’ve seen Bloomberg play his hand before. Anyone remember the 2004 Republican National Convention? The one that was held in New York? The one where the public were disenfranchised of their right to protest, arrested en masse in egregious displays of police brutality, and locked up without charges beyond all legal limits in what was the city’s most blatant disregard of civil liberties in several generations? Remember who was Mayor back then, who welcomed the Bush, Cheney and co. to New York and never as much as apologized for the illegitimate muzzling of the protests? That’s right. Michael Bloomberg. A Republican Michael Bloomberg.

The closing words go to Councilman Tony Avella of Queens, who, according the New York Times

“called the term limits bill “an absolute disgrace,” and warned sternly: “You’re not conning anybody. The public of this city knows that the fix was in from the beginning.”

He added: “You should all be voted out of office for voting for this.”

The public will get its chance in November 2009, a year to the day after the Presidential Elections. I trust there will be as strong a Democratic candidate for Mayor by then as there is currently a Democratic candidate for President. After all, there’s Democracy…. And then, if you’re not careful, there isn’t.

Related Posts


323 Comment(s)

  1. 23 May, 2022 at 9:31 am

    I have been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or weblog
    posts on this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this web site.

    Reading this info So i’m satisfied to show that I have an incredibly good
    uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed.
    I so much undoubtedly will make certain to do not fail to remember this web site and provides it a look on a continuing basis.

  2. 23 May, 2022 at 10:12 am

    Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t
    loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show
    the same results.

  3. 23 May, 2022 at 10:36 am

    My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right.

    This post truly made my day. You cann’t consider simply how much time I had spent for this info!
    Thank you!

  4. 23 May, 2022 at 11:28 am

    At this time it appears like Expression Engine is the best
    blogging platform out there right now. (from what I’ve read)
    Is that what you are using on your blog?

  5. 23 May, 2022 at 11:37 am

    Hello, yeah this paragraph is actually pleasant
    and I have learned lot of things from it regarding blogging.

  6. 23 May, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.

    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your
    useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  7. 23 May, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    I blog often and I truly appreciate your information. This article has
    really peaked my interest. I’m going to book mark your
    website and keep checking for new information about once per week.
    I opted in for your Feed as well.

  8. 23 May, 2022 at 1:16 pm

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your
    blog? My blog is in the very same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks!

  9. 23 May, 2022 at 1:27 pm

    Post writing is also a fun, if you be familiar with afterward you can write or else it is complex to write.

  10. 23 May, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    There is certainly a great deal to find out about this subject.
    I love all the points you have made.

  11. 23 May, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative
    and amusing, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is an issue that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about.
    Now i’m very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

  12. 23 May, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    I know this web page provides quality dependent content
    and extra stuff, is there any other web page which provides these kinds
    of things in quality?

  13. 23 May, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    I absolutely love your site.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you create this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m
    wanting to create my own personal website and would like to know where you got this
    from or what the theme is named. Cheers!

  14. 23 May, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your
    site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account helped me
    a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright
    clear concept

  15. 23 May, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or guest
    authoring on other sites? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss
    and would love to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to
    shoot me an e mail.

  16. 23 May, 2022 at 5:29 pm

    Hi there to all, because I am actually eager of reading this website’s
    post to be updated on a regular basis. It contains good material.

  17. 23 May, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    I’m very happy to find this web site. I need
    to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!!

    I definitely savored every part of it and I have you book marked
    to see new stuff in your site.

  18. 23 May, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Now I am going to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming over again to
    read additional news.

  19. 23 May, 2022 at 6:55 pm

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after going through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Nonetheless, I’m certainly pleased I came across it
    and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

  20. 23 May, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and let
    me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about.
    Now i’m very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something relating to this.

  21. 23 May, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks for another wonderful post. The place else could anybody get that
    type of info in such a perfect manner of writing?
    I have a presentation subsequent week, and I am at
    the search for such info.

  22. 23 May, 2022 at 9:24 pm

    Wow, awesome weblog layout! How long have you ever been running a blog for?

    you made running a blog look easy. The full glance of
    your web site is excellent, let alone the content!

  23. 28 May, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and
    you’re just too great. I actually like what you’ve acquired here,
    certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it.
    You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it
    wise. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is actually a terrific website.

Leave a Reply


Calendar of posts

August 2022