Mike Bloomberg has been a capable mayor of New York City and is an advocate for a number of experimental progressive public policy initiatives, on issues ranging from decreasing the use of cars to fighting poverty to improving sexual health. Now Bloomberg is ignoring the advice of his closest political confidantes to push for a third term. He is attempting an end-run around voters by asking the city council to repeal the term limit laws that New Yorkers approved at the ballot twice during the 1990s. Bloomberg appears to have the support he needs on the council to make this happen.
All this is distasteful, for sure, but many progressives seem uncertain about how to evaluate this development. After all, even when we've disagreed with him, most New Yorkers have found it reassuring to have Bloomie, essentially a technocrat, at the helm of city government — especially after the brash and ideologically-driven Giuliani administration. And there is a real lack of enthusiasm about Bloomberg's potential successors.
But remember when Hizzoner wasted months on big box development plans, such as a West Side stadium and Olympic hosting gig, that were both unpopular and ill-fated? Remember when, under orders from the Bloomberg administration, the NYPD jailed Republican National Convention protesters for up to three days on charges equivalent to that of a traffic violation, leading to over $8 million in lawsuits? On a dozen other contentious issues, from affordable housing to education, Bloomberg's record is mixed, with advocates questioning the methods by which the administration measures and promotes their own record.
Ballot initiatives certainly aren't a fail safe way to promote good public policy, but since New York City's citizens enacted term limits in the first place, they should have the chance to vote on whether or not to repeal them. Any other outcome would simply be undemocratic.
For more, check out the informed opinions at The Albany Project.
–cross-posted at TAPPED