Bloomberg to City: Drop Dead

The Mayor’s Sneaky Scramble for a Third Term


Published: October 30, 2008

New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted in support of term limits in 1993 and 1996. Now Mayor Bloomberg thinks that he is entitled to run for a third term without voter consent. According to Bloomberg, the fiscal consequences of the global economic crisis to the city may be more severe than the impact of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. In fewer words: he thinks that the city will desperately need him for the difficult days ahead. Unfortunately, Bloomberg also thinks that it is now too late to let New Yorkers decide this issue before the 2009 mayoral race. His solution? Let’s not have a fair mayoral race at all.

The deadline for adding the term limit question onto this year’s ballot has long passed. One option is to have a special referendum, just for this issue. Bloomberg argued that this would be too costly and that voter turn-out would be too low. However, it is hard to imagine that the outraged members of the many grass-roots organizations that protested Bloomberg’s stunt would sit this vote out. Thus, the billionaire’s true concern with the referendum is that the will of the people may run contrary to the will of the mayor.

Instead of allowing the public to decide, Bloomberg announced in September that he would run for re-election and asked the City Council to vote on whether term limits could be extended to three consecutive terms. This measure allows elected officials to serve 12 years rather than eight. If the bill had not passed, 35 of the City Council’s 51 members would have been barred from seeking re-election, due to the two term limit rule. Calling for “continuity of government,” Bloomberg spent a few weeks trying to garner the 26 votes he needed from the 51-member Council in order to pass his measure. On Oct. 23, the council members voted 29-22 in favor of extending term limits.

What’s even more appalling is that Bloomberg pressured nonprofit organizations, which benefit from his personal donations, to support his third term bid by appealing to the undecided members of the City Council and by testifying during public hearings. Many of these social service, arts and neighborhood organizations rely on Bloomberg’s private donations and city contracts. It was inappropriate for him to pull them into this difficult situation. After all, what choice did they truly have?

Furthermore, considering that Bloomberg spent $74 million of his own money during his 2001 election and $84 million on his re-election, allowing him to run for a third term would hardly seem fair or democratic. There is already talk from his campaign that he will spend another $80 million on the upcoming election. Twenty million dollars will be especially set aside for campaigning against Democrat Anthony D. Weiner, who represents New York’s Ninth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. There are strict spending restrictions in New York City’s public finance system; however, these restrictions will not apply to Bloomberg because the billionaire will fund his campaign with his private money. Any candidate who faces Bloomberg is at an obvious disadvantage.

As history has proven, few leaders voluntarily give up their power. New Yorkers are just a few days away from the most important election of their lives; the country is in the midst of an economic crisis, and Mayor Bloomberg thinks that he can sneak this one past us. By having the City Council vote on its own term limits instead of letting the voters decide this issue, Bloomberg is essentially telling the city to “drop dead,” because the opinions of New Yorkers do not matter to him as long as it poses a potential obstruction to his plans. Bloomberg’s intentions are antidemocratic, and the measures he is taking are unethical. It is time for Bloomberg to step aside and let the next generation of leaders govern  New York City.