Comptroller blasts tactics on term limits

October 19, 2008 4:18:11 PM PDT
The city comptroller said Sunday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is strong-arming City Council members to support his plan to change the city's term-limits law so he can run again, but a Bloomberg spokesman denied it.Comptroller William Thompson said some council members had been threatened with losing perks such as committee chairmanships or funding for programs in their districts. He did not say who they were.

"Undue pressure has been placed on them," Thompson said.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said no inappropriate pressure was being applied.

"We're certainly making our case to members of the council and asking for their votes, but those allegations are untrue," Loeser said.

Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, announced earlier this month that he would aim to modify the city charter so that he could seek a third term. Existing law limits city officeholders to two consecutive four-year terms, and he is set to leave office at the end of 2009.

The billionaire founder of the financial information company Bloomberg LP said he decided to pursue a third term because he believes his financial expertise is crucial in the ongoing economic crisis.

The City Council could vote on the term-limits proposal as early as this week.

Thompson, a Democrat who had been considered a likely mayoral candidate, said two public hearings last week were not enough to give New Yorkers a chance to air their views on the issue.

He said the matter should be put before voters in a referendum following hearings in all five boroughs. Voters set the current limit in a 1993 referendum and reaffirmed it three years later.

"This rush to judgment in a two-and-a-half-week period of time is wrong," Thompson said.

The New York Times reported Friday that organizations that receive both city funds and grants from Bloomberg's personal giving have been asked to call undecided City Council members to make the case for a third term. Loeser told the newspaper the mayor was careful to keep his philanthropic giving separate from his management of the city.

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the advocacy group NYPIRG, said that while Bloomberg has not violated the letter of ethics laws, "it doesn't pass the smell test."

"Does Mayor Bloomberg realize what it looks like to press groups getting money from the city?" said Russianoff, who attended Thompson's news conference near the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. "It looks like an administration desperately abusing its powers to stay in office."

Earlier Sunday, leaders of several municipal and private-sector unions announced their support for the mayor's bid to change the term limits law.

"Our unions have been through many fiscal crises over the years, but none has been equal to the current tremendous financial emergency facing our city," said city sanitation union President Harry Nespoli.

Leaders of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, the Detectives' Endowment Association, the Construction Trades Council, Teamsters Local 282 and Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ joined Nespoli at a news conference on the steps of City Hall.


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