Bloomy's third term bill goes to council

October 7, 2008 12:57:33 PM PDT
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's bid to change the term-limits law so that he can campaign for another four years now rests in the hands of the City Council, where two competing bills were introduced Tuesday.The 51-member council won't vote until Oct. 23 at the earliest, and two hearings were set for next week on the highly charged issue that has the potential of dramatically altering the city's political landscape.

Two-thirds of the council members considering the dueling legislation will be forced out of office next year under the existing term-limits law, which restricts the mayor, council members and other city officeholders to two consecutive four-year terms.

Bloomberg, whose last day in office is Dec. 31, 2009, wants to modify the law and add the option for a third term. In addition to that proposal introduced Tuesday, opponents introduced legislation that would require voter approval for any change to the term-limit law.

The billionaire mayor has acknowledged that voters should have the final say on the matter. But he argues the city needs him to stay on and provide fiscal leadership amid the economic meltdown, and he maintains it is too late for a referendum this year.

Another bill that would establish a commission to consider the issue and then put proposed modifications on the ballot in a special election next year is also being drafted by lawmakers who disagree with Bloomberg's planned path to change the law.

As council members were arriving for Tuesday's meeting where Bloomberg's bill and its counterpart were being introduced, Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters she was not ready to reveal what she thinks about either proposal.

The Democrat, who was widely considered to be among several mayoral candidates next year, has remained silent about whether she supports Bloomberg's term-limit campaign. Last December she said she opposed changing the law, calling such a move "anti-democratic and anti-reform."

"I will come to my position," she said Tuesday, "but I feel as a speaker, I need to have consultation with my members, and I need a little more time to do that to the level I think is appropriate, given the significance of this issue."

Quinn, considered Bloomberg's close ally, did say last week that if the law were changed, she would run again for the council, and not for mayor.

For his part, Bloomberg on Tuesday kept far away from the City Hall fight.

After dropping the initial bombshell last week that he intends to change the law and run again, Bloomberg left the city for a trip overseas.

The mayor, who on Monday said Quinn "plans to shepherd" his bill through the council, retreated a bit Tuesday and said only that she is "very capable of doing what democracy requires, considering what her members want, guiding them and passing legislation."

After breakfast with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Bloomberg claimed he has no role in the term-limits battle back home, insisting that his only involvement has been to "read the papers."

"I've got to go and focus on what would get me elected down the road, doing a good job and not getting involved in politics, and not worrying about these kinds of things," he said.