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MAYOR'S BILL CHALLENGED

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:33 p.m.
It looks like it's all gone pear-shaped--or has it? Mayor Michael Bloomberg just knew that...
Members of the Street Vendor Project have been among hundreds protesting Bloomberg’s term limit extension proposal on the steps of City Hall. (Bill Moore Photo)

It looks like it's all gone pear-shaped--or has it? Mayor Michael Bloomberg just knew that New Yorkers would heartily embrace his announcement that he was going to sidestep a little technicality and run for a third time in a twice-referendum-approved, two-term-limited office.

Not so fast. Now it's the clash of the titans: Bloomberg with Ron Lauder against Thomas Golisano, as the three billionaires, egos unholstered, face off. Kind of. On Thursday, Oct. 23, the City Council is scheduled to vote on the issue.

The question being asked by politicos, pundits and residents alike is: Does the mayor and his cooperative colleague Speaker Christine Quinn have the votes or not? No one is sure. "The mayor and the speaker should not do an end run around democracy," charged Council Member Letitia James. "This is about a fundamental right that our ancestors fought and died for, and we've got to defend that right; and we cannot ignore voters who have spoken not once but twice."

At press time, Councilman Charles Barron told the AmNews that publicly undecided colleagues Gail Brewer, Alan Gerson and David Yassky had just proposed an amendment to Bloomberg's bill that, if it is passed, it must go to referendum before it is enacted. But that means we cannot vote on the bill the same day. "You cannot vote on a bill on the same day there has been an amendment made to it. It has to age for at least a week." None of the undecided members contacted by the AmNews responded to a request for comment. Barron said that he and his colleagues were now trying to convince fellow council members to pass the amendment. "Right now, there are about 23 saying 'no' to Bloomberg's bill, 18 saying 'yes' and about 10 claiming to be undecided," he said. Barron is seeing the amendment proposal as a "great victory for us and speaks to the public pressure.

Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn never expected this backlash from the people, but it is reminiscent of Bloomberg's failed congestion pricing and West Side stadium projects. "If there is no amendment and the bill passed, we will be ready to go to court on Friday morning to say that the law cannot be interpreted the way the mayor has claimed." Three weeks after the mayor tossed this political football in the air, New York City politicians have been forced to argue their conscious in public--career, public interest or defending the city charter? First came the disgruntled rumblings from City Council members who refused to be coerced, convinced or cajoled into going along to get along or repay slush-funded program favors.

Then the public weighed in. "Eight then out! That's what the public said twice," boomed a more-than-aggravated Councilman Barron. "We need to get some fresh blood in the City Council. We do not need another referendum. The people defeated this bill in 1993 and 1996." Ron Lauder was the financial backer for the original term limit laws, which put the kibosh on career politicians sitting in the same seats for decades. This time around, first he was for the mayor's effort, then against it--then a deal was cut. He was offered a seat on the 2010 Charter Revision Commission and the billionaires bonded once again. As Bloomberg's bill to extend his term made its way to the City Council chambers, opposition bills were crafted by Council Members Letitia James and Bill de Blasio and by Assemb. Hakeem Jeffries. Heated were last week's public hearings that had Jamal and Jean Public voicing support or opposition alongside activists, elected officials, good-government groups, and union leaders. But Barron demanded that Bloomberg's bill just be voted down. "We don't need another referendum."