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Mayor takes heat, praise for extending term limits

After facing more than four hours of both vituperation and acclamation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Monday legislation allowing him to run for a third term in office.

His detractors, some raising their voices and pointing forefingers at him, called him everything from unconscionable, arrogant and shameful to Orwellian, Machiavellian, Banana Republic politician and subverter of democracy.

His supporters ranged from those who merely said he should not be replaced to many who extolled him not only as a leader without peer but without whom the city could not cope through rough financial times. One women said: “You do not need this office; this office needs you.”

The hearing began with former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., who opposed the legislation to allow a third term for not only Bloomberg, but two−thirds of the Council. The Council narrowly approved the legislation by 29−22 Oct. 23.

“This proposal is contrary to good government,” Vallone said.

After the final speaker, Bloomberg spoke briefly, acknowledging what he termed a “diversity of opinion” during the public speaking session, which the law requires at legislation−signing ceremonies.

“There is no easy answer and nobody is irreplaceable, but I do think that if you take a look at the real world of how long it takes to do things, I just think that three terms make more sense than two,” Bloomberg said.

“The people will render the final verdict on this,” he noted.

Bloomberg, who until recently was a staunch defender of the now−overturned term limit law, has maintained that he is needed to guide the city through the current economic meltdown and probable financial distress of the future.

Many of his supporters could not agree more.

“I support the mayor in his legislation in the name of good government,” said Borough President Helen Marshall.

Several speakers extolled the mayor as absolutely essential to shepherd the city, according to one, “through angry, uncharted waters with a steady hand at the wheel.”

Supporters praised Bloomberg as a “visionary” whose time in office had been “impeccable.”

But Robert Johnson of Sunnyside told the stony−faced Bloomberg a few feet away: “You do not listen to the people.”

Others compared what they termed the “irony” of the presidential election Tuesday with what they called an attempted subversion of democracy by Bloomberg.

Many reminded Bloomberg that the people had voted twice in favor of limiting city officials to two four−year terms.

Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) said he also reminded Bloomberg that voters had spoken twice. Avella, who did not attend the City Hall ceremony, said the mayor telephoned him in a conciliatory call.

“While I appreciate receiving Mr. Bloomberg’s phone call, I told him that what he did was clearly a disgrace,” Avella said.

Jimmy McMillan, wore a vest that read “The Rent is Too Damn High” as he turned his back on the mayor while speaking because he said the mayor had turned his back on the struggling people of the city.

That was the theme of others as well, that Bloomberg has been an elitist who has been cozy with real estate developers and landlords to the distress of renters and the middle class.

More than 130 people signed up to speak at the signing ceremony, standing in line for hours to await their turns.

Randy Maestro, an attorney and former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, called on the mayor to not sign the bill. Otherwise, he said, “as we say in my profession, ‘we’ll see you in court.’ ”

Maestro said he had been hired by those who plan legal challenges to Bloomberg’s third term legislation.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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