Mayor Bloomberg wins fight to extend term limits
(AP) - Arguing that New York needs his financial skill to guide it through the crisis on Wall Street, Mayor Michael Bloomberg persuaded City Council to amend the term-limits lawThursday so that the billionaire independent can run forre-election next year.
By a 29-22 vote, the council agreed to allow officeholders threeconsecutive four-year terms. Existing law limits them to two terms,and Bloomberg's second is up at the end of 2009.
The vote dramatically alters the city's political landscape.Many would-be mayoral candidates are expected to drop out of therace rather than run against a popular incumbent with unlimitedcash to spend. Bloomberg founded the financial news service thatbears his name and is worth an estimated $20 billion.
The former CEO was first elected as a Republican in 2001, whilesmoke was still rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center; helater became an independent.
Bloomberg's announcement three weeks ago that he would try torewrite the term-limits law led to a bruising debate - and apolitically damaging one for the mayor, who had previously backedthe term limits law and even vetoed a 2002 bill to amend it, sayingit was an attempt by politicians to change the rules for personalgain.
Scores of New Yorkers came to testify during 20 hours of councilhearings, and a poll found that registered voters overwhelminglydisapproved of the plan.
After the vote, Bloomberg issued a statement praising thecouncil for acting to "give the people of New York a fullerchoice" next year. He said the city must turn its focus tosoftening the fallout from the financial downturn.
He was not present for Thursday's vote, but as he left City Hallshortly afterward, a group of protesters chased him to his SUV,shouting that he was a "sellout."
"You're disgusting!" they yelled. The mayor's face was red ashe silently got into his car, surrounded by aides and his securitydetail.
During the debate on Thursday, Councilman Charles Barron, whovoted against the bill, urged his colleagues to say "no tobullying, no to billions of dollars and yes to the people." AndCouncilman Tony Avella said: "You should all be voted out ofoffice for voting for this."
Opponents argued that the mayor was going over the heads ofvoters, who approved term limits twice in the 1990s. Many criticssaid they did not disagree with Bloomberg's goal of adding athird-term option but faulted the way he went about it. "Everything has been wrong with this process, and we should notbe party to it," said Councilman Bill de Blasio.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn acknowledged the "difficult"decision each council member had to make, but agreed with Bloombergthat the city needs continuity in government to get through thefinancial turmoil. The crisis on Wall Street has done severe damageto the city's financial fortunes.
"Our city, already in recession, is headed for a long and deepdownturn," she said. "In challenging times like these, the votersshould have the choice, the choice to continue their currentleadership."
As the measure passed, a shout came from the spectators' sectionon the balcony: "Shame on you, shame on all of you!"
Several council members who opposed the Bloomberg plan made alast-minute push for a voter referendum on term limits, but theirmeasure was defeated.
Bloomberg's success at passing the term-limit proposal comesafter several high-profile failures for the 66-year-old mayor.During his first term, he lost a campaign to put a new footballstadium on Manhattan's West Side. The stadium would have been thecenterpiece of the city's bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Earlier this year, he failed to get the state Legislature toapprove a controversial plan to toll cars entering the most crowdedparts of Manhattan, with the goal of cutting traffic and pollution.
Bloomberg's best-known legislative successes came early in hisCity Hall career. He persuaded the City Council to back hiscampaign to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants. He also tookmore direct control of the city's school system.
Bronx City Counclmembers' Votes on Term Limit Measure:For:Maria del Carmen ArroyoMaria BaezHelen D. FosterG. Oliver KoppellJoel RiveraLarry B. SeabrookJames Vacca
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