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Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid for a third term in office will not come without some resistance. His announcement last week that he would attempt to overturn current term limits raised protests from several Council members from Queens and even the billionaire activist who provisionally supported the move.
Ronald Lauder, the cosmetics heir who spearheaded term limits in city offices, said over the weekend that he would only support a third term from Bloomberg, not a permanent extension for all elected posts.
Bloomberg said the looming financial crisis and the associated loss of tax revenue for the city inspired him to throw his hat in the ring one more time after deliberating over the political implications of the move.
“As our economic situation has become increasingly unstable, the question for me has become far less about the theoretical and much more about the practical,” he said.
After reports that he had reached a deal with Bloomberg to support a universal term-limit extension in return for a spot on a commission that would consider putting a referendum reverting to a two-term maximum on the 2010 ballot, Lauder indicated Tuesday no deal had been reached.
“The term limits debate is growing more difficult and divisive by the day,” he said in a statement. “At this point, I see no benefit in having anything more to say until I have had the opportunity to talk with Mayor Bloomberg personally, hopefully when he returns Wednesday.” The mayor has been in London.
Bloomberg’s bill was introduced in the Council Tuesday. It seeks to permanently change the maximum limit to three terms. A public comment session for the term limit-extension bill is scheduled for Oct. 16 at a yet-to-be determined location.
In the meantime, City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who plans to run for city comptroller in 2009, introduced legislation requiring a voter referendum on extending term limits.
“The voters made their statement via the ballot box, not once but twice,” he said in a statement, “and any change should continue to come from the ballot box.”
But Weprin said last Thursday that he thought the Council would back the mayor’s bill.
“I think it would pass,” he said. “But it would still be wrong to go around voters.”
Bloomberg said last Thursday that he supported a voter referendum on term limits, but that there was no time to include one for the 2008 elections.
But Weprin said a referendum could be placed on the ballot for a special election to replace City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), who is currently running unopposed to replace state Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights). Such an election would be held in February or March 2009, he said.
City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said he has never supported term limits and criticized Bloomberg for choosing to change the law through the Council.
“I think it makes sense to extend them, but not this way,” he said. “If we are going to tinker with the law, it should go back to the people.”
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), a 2009 mayoral candidate, said “there is a right way and a wrong way to overturn term limits. What the mayor announced was his support for doing it the wrong way.”
Speaking to some 100 members of the media in the Blue Room at City Hall last Thursday, the mayor ascribed his decision to the turmoil on Wall Street and the associated decline in tax revenues.
“Handling this financial crisis while strengthening essential services — such as education and public safety — is a challenge I want to take on for the people of New York,” he said.
Bloomberg said his staff was working with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) to craft a bill. He declined to describe what the legislation would contain.
In seeking to overturn term limits through the City Council, Bloomberg risks angering a constituency that twice voted in favor of a two-term limit. He framed his decision in terms of choice, noting voters would be able to choose to elect a new candidate next November if they disapprove.
Recent polls seem to reinforce Bloomberg’s reasoning. A Quinnipiac University poll released Friday showed that city voters favored extending term limits to re-elect him by a margin of 54 percent to 42 percent, a reversal of a July 16 poll.
in which they opposed such a move 56 percent to 38 percent.
The move also throws into uncertainty the political futures of the City Council, <FEFF><FEFF> two-thirds of whom were to be forced out of office by term limits in 2009. Many have announced their candidacy for other public seats.
During last Thursday’s conference, Bloomberg discounted notions that three-term New York mayors are destined to suffer low approval ratings.
“I’m not a student of their experiences,” he said of the three three-term mayors who preceded him, Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Wagner and Ed Koch. “It was before my time.”
Bloomberg, who was first elected as a Republican and became an independent in 2007, declined to name the party under which he would run.
“It’s much too early to tell. This is not a time for politics,” he said, drawing an audible chuckle from the room.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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