Diary

NYC's Bloomberg and his Charter Revision Commission care about the politicians (not the people)

This is a story of how democracy doesn’t work at all in New York City.

From the Wall Street Journal:

NY POLITICS AUGUST 24, 2010
Term Limits Again Will Get Spot on Ballot
By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL
New York City voters will have the opportunity in November to restore a law that will cap elected officials’ service at two consecutive four-year terms, but if they choose that option their decision will not fully take effect until 2021, a city panel decided Monday night.

Amid swirling controversy, the Charter Revision Commission voted to approve a so-called grandfather clause that allows all incumbents to serve a maximum of three four-year terms, even if the electorate decides on Nov. 2 to restore a cap on two terms.

On the City Council, 32 of the 51 members are eligible to serve a third term and will benefit from the decision. Two newly elected citywide officials—Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Comptroller John Liu—and two borough presidents—Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx—also stand to benefit.

I’ll try to get through this without cursing.

Anthony Perez Cassino, a commission member who believed the will of the voters should be effective immediately, said the grandfathering of all incumbents is a “disservice” to the public to “make it so far into the future.”

Stephen Fiala, a commissioner who supported the grandfathering clause, called the move a “thoughtful and balanced solution.”

But many members of the public, who addressed the commission prior to the vote, voiced disdain for placing the effective date of the voters’ decision so far into the future.

The public is “outraged by what’s being done,” said Henry Stern, a former city parks commissioner. “You are wronging the people of the city of New York.”

Do the people of New York City matter at all? They work for the government; the government doesn’t work for the people. Now do you understand how things operate in New York?

In 1993, the people of New York City voted for term limits. Two terms and yer out.

In 1996, the city council tried to sneak through a third term with a very confusingly worded referendum. The people saw through it and again said two terms and yer out.

Ever since 1996, the city council’s main priority has been how to thwart the twice-expressed will of the people. Re-elections are usually a joke; without term limits, the people stay on forever. The six-figure salary is really nice, as are the perks and the private slush funds for friends.

In 2001, Rudy Giuliani wanted to stay on a bit longer, but term limits forced him out.

Mayor Bloomberg said over and over again that he’d never, never, never, never overturn term limits.

After election in 2001 and re-election in 2005, Bloomberg said “Forget all that!” and gave the city council some goodies and had them overturn term limits legislatively.

Yes, that’s right. The NYC mayor and city council overturned the twice-expressed will of the people and bettered their own jobs.

Bloomberg was re-elected in 2009 (the Democrat candidate was terrible, of course) by a mere five points. He spent over $100 million of his own money on the campaign, plus many millions more in soft money donations to NYC nonprofits. The bad politicians won.

Bloomberg promised in 2008 that he’d appoint a Charter Revision Commission to look at the term limits question and make recommendations for a third public vote on the thing. The present CRC recommended that the people can vote on the term limits again (How very nice of the CRC!), but that the current legislators must be able to serve an extra third term. So, even if the voters say for a third time that two terms is the limit, that won’t go into effect for current legislators until 2021.

The CRC’s reasoning was the current legislators must get a third term pass. The CRC’s just gotta be fair to these politicians.

But the positions are not the property of politicians. The positions belong to the people!

On Monday (yesterday), the CRC responded to criticism of its plan. The CRC said it’s allowing third terms to current legislators, public be damned.

The CRC is supposed to look at the entire charter. In the early 1990s, the city charter was rewritten after it was determined that the Board of Estimate (the five borough presidents each had a vote) had violated the one-man-one-vote principle. The borough presidents were weakened in power and the city council president position was renamed the “public advocate”–a completely useless position only political hacks could love.

In 2005, I ran for Manhattan Borough President, pledging to ask a future CRC to help eliminate the now useless position. The 2009 Republican candidate who followed me pledged to not take a salary if elected. We both wrote to the current CRC to look into eliminating useless government positions. The CRC determined that it “needed further study” and didn’t do a damn thing.

From the New York Times:

Commission Votes to Put Term Limits on November Ballot in New York City
By JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
Published: August 23, 2010
(…)
Henry J. Stern, a former city parks commissioner, said any changes to the law should go into effect immediately.

“An essential injustice is being done,” Mr. Stern said during public comments at the meeting, which was held at Baruch College. “You are wronging the people of New York.”
(…)
But John H. Banks, a member of the commission, said changing course would undermine the group’s independence. He said denying a third term would create inequalities in the Council and discriminate against those with less experience.

“That would have a profound impact on people of color,” Mr. Banks said at the meeting.

WTF? What profound impact on people of color?

You don’t want to give these jokers their illegal third term? You’re racist!

SUMMARY
Democracy in Bloomberg’s New York City? Fuhgeddaboutit!