What about the voters?

October 17, 2008 1:57:55 PM PDT
No matter where you stand on the New York City term limits debate -- should it remain at two terms as voted twice by the citizenry, or should it be extended to three terms -- let's boil this argument down to what's really going on here.

Mayor Bloomberg wants to remain in office. Ostensibly, it's because his business acumen -- he was, before the stock market tumbled, reportedly worth more than $10 billion -- can help the City try to navigate the rough financial waters ahead.

That could be a valid argument; no question the Mayor knows money, or at least how to accumulate it for himself. No one is doubting that.

But pardon me for being just a wee-bit skeptical of this argument. And I offer all this as someone who did not think back then, and don't think now, that term limits are the smartest theory ever conceived.

But consider this, as we listen, beginning at public hearings that started today, to the arguments the Mayor and his minions will make about why we so desperately need to lift the term limit law -- without a vote of the people who twice voted for it.

What would the Mayor have argued for had he become a candidate for President -- or if he had been tapped by either party's nominee to become a Vice Presidential running mate -- or if he were on the A-list of people being considered for a cabinet post in either a McCain or Obama administration? Would Mayor Bloomberg be making this you-need-me-badly argument to do an end-run around voters and throw out the term limits law?

I doubt it.

I have no idea what the Mayor is thinking, and I'm no shrink so I won't speculate about whether Hizzoner may simply be stumped about what he'll do next in life and what he would do when he leaves office in 2010. I can't imagine he'd not have myriad opportunities to do whatever in the world he wants.

But clearly -- given that he misread the political landscape of Presidential politics -- he wants to stay in office. So did Rudy Giuliani, as you'll recall, back in 2001, after the terror attacks. He too made a you-need-me-badly argument that offered to delay the Mayoral elections (Michael Bloomberg was then a candidate), to keep the City on an even keel while it tried to recover from the 9-11 attacks.

The public and other politicians didn't buy it then. It will be interesting to see if Bloomberg can sell it now.

The term limit conundrum seems simple to solve: If Mayor Bloomberg thinks it such a bad idea (and why didn't he bring this up before?), then he should offer to fund the campaign to have it overturned by voters and take himself out of the running, just to prove how committed he is to the cause. That would take it out of the self-interest sphere and put it firmly in the what's-best-for public policy arena.

At least that's my non-political view of this dust up.

Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest in the campaign to have term limits upended by the City Council.

We'll also have the latest on the Presidential campaign, where Joe the Plumber is getting his 15 minutes of fame today, after getting mentioned nearly two dozen times during last night's debate.

And it's not fame he wants to see. It's what happens when someone who is nobody suddenly becomes somebody: reporters start finding things out about you. Like that Joe doesn't have a plumber's license; he works under his boss's license, which, one paper in Ohio says, is against state building regulations. And it turns out there's a personal income tax lien against him. So now he's unlicensed and he doesn't pay his taxes? Another great vetting job by the McCain campaign.

The two Presidential candidates will dine together tonight in New York City - as they are the keynoters at the Al Smith Dinner, the annual affair that benefits charities connected to the New York Archdiocese. During the last Presidential race, the church said the election was too cantankerous and didn't invite Pres. Bush and John Kerry.

Should be interesting to hear what Barack Obama and John McCain have to say tonight. Our political reporter Dave Evans is there for us tonight at 11.

Another wild day on Wall Street - down by a few hundred, then up by 400.

The economy remains issue number one -- not just in the race but on the minds of Americans. We'll have the latest on the economy and the stock market, at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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