From political circles to dinner tables and PTA meetings, the city is abuzz with term-limit discussions. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on whether or not we should extend the current two-term threshold for city officials in 2009, and certainly here in our office we’ve had a spirited debate on the matter. But given the unknown—and likely bleak—outlook on the economy, we feel voters should be given a third chance to elect Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Yes, there is much to dislike in the way this term-limit discussion has played out. Though the most dire portion of the financial forecast had not hit when Bloomberg first floated the idea of a third term, his initial coyness on the issue means that there’s not enough time for voters to have their say this Nov. 4. Billionaire Ronald S. Lauder, who bankrolled the last two pro-term-limit efforts, has played a not-so-behind-the-scenes role in this debate, coming out in favor of a third term for Bloomberg in exchange for a seat on the Charter Revision Commission. This quid-pro-quo behavior is disturbing—at best. And no one likes the fact that the City Council is in the position to give many of its own another four years in office.
In fact, when we first wrote about this issue last month, we came out against extending term limits. But with frozen credit markets, an erratic Dow and the collapse of Fannie, Freddie, Lehman, AIG and Wachovia, times have changed. On Jan. 20, 2010, we will need a mayor ready to hit the ground running. There will be no learning curve for Bloomberg, who has already steered New York through the aftermath of its darkest days and into some of its best times yet. The mayor’s record of thrifty budgeting, setting the right priorities and constantly reviewing government productivity is what we will need more of in the years ahead. Although unprecedented challenges will surely arise, we trust this man to see us through treacherous times without sacrificing the core needs of safety, schools, housing and transit.
There’s just one minor caveat that we request: if the mayor and Council are going to go over the heads of voters, Bloomberg should agree to stay within the limits of the city’s campaign finance system. With a national profile and an approval rating north of 70 percent, there’s little need for this two-term mayor to spend tens of millions of dollars reaching out to voters before Election Day. A Bloomberg victory won on an even financial playing field would also indicate a clear voter mandate, silencing critics who perceive it to be a thinly veiled power grab.
Finally, we don’t mean to suggest that term limits should be done away with altogether. They play an important role infusing government with fresh talent, and the debate for us has always been about determining an appropriate number of terms. The current financial crisis, we think, highlights the need for three terms rather than two, so the city doesn’t lose experienced hands when it needs them most.
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