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October 6th, 2008


by Jo Panisch

Executive Director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition Michael Myers and New York State Senator Eric Adams

More than fifty impassioned protesters gathered at the steps of City Hall on Sunday to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement that he will seek a third term through special legislation by the City Council. This controversial move was ignited by the current financial crisis, says Bloomberg, and his belief that his longstanding business experience is what the city needs to help withstand it.

Those gathered had differing opinions on Mayor Bloomberg and his economic prowess. Many even took opposing positions on term limits, some supportive of third term legislation. However all protestors agreed that Mr. Bloomberg’s petition for an extended term through the City Council undermines the democratic process, calling it nothing short of decree and self interest in extending his own tenure.

“What do we want?” the assembled chanted, “Democracy!”

According to a poll taken by Quinnipac University on July 16th the electorate opposed extending term limits for Mayor Bloomberg by a margin of 56% to 38%. However, since this question has changed from theoretical to actual, results have shifted. In a poll conducted October 3rd the opposition has dropped to 42% with support of a third term rising to 54%, so to see him remain in office. This contrasts a poll questioning the basic concept with a margin of 65% to 29% percent supporting the notion of term limits.

Extending the term limit to three terms has been put to vote twice before, in 1993 and again in 1996. Both times New Yorkers rejected it.

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, does not oppose term limits but questioned the message Mr. Bloomberg’s referendum would send voters in this especially tumultuous epoch. “It fundamentally undermines democracy to overturn term limits by fiat,” he said, “ [and] it needs to go back to the voters for a sufficient time to make it a fair and smooth process.”

District 35 City Council Member Leticia James, also a proponent for extending term limits said, “Its about defending democracy, about having voters speak not 51 members in a closed room. […] If we are going to challenge term limits, do it the right way. Put it to a referendum Mr. Mayor!”

Michael Myers, Executive Director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition is a supporter of term limits saying Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt at a third term is full of self interest and ‘Orwellian.’ “You don’t save a city through trickery or hypocrisy,” said Myers.

The hypocrisy Myers is referring to is Mayor Bloomberg’s previous statements staunchly opposing extending term limits. When Rudy Giuliani campaigned for an extended term in 2001, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted as saying “The public voted twice for limiting the number of terms, period.”

Mayor Bloomberg has the support of New York’s major news publications, The New York Times, The Daily News, and The New York post. This worries opponents who fear the media will not be partial with their coverage.

Other supporters include Speaker Christine Quinn, who said that a bill to permanently change term limits from two to three will go before the City Council on Tuesday. Speaker Quinn, a democrat, was also criticized at the rally for her record of supporting the Mayor with suggestions that she was ‘bought.’ “Christine, you do not represent the LGBT community,” said one protester, “You represent Michael Bloomberg.”

Mr. Bloomberg defends his flip flop telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Its in tough times that we have to make the investments in the future so that when the good times come we will have the things available. And that’s not something that, I think, someone coming in cold will find it easy to do.

Outspoken Democratic New York State Senator Eric Adams had something to say about that. “It is arrogant at the highest level to think that you are the only one who can get us out of the mess that we are in,” adding “Don’t become a political, punch-drunk boxer that believes you’re the only one who can bring home the crown. It’s over.”

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