Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mayor’s Tactics Are Alienating Some Big Allies

By MICHAEL BARBARO

In his aggressive pursuit of a third term, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has begun to alienate some of his fiercest supporters, who say that his hardball tactics are undercutting his well-earned legacy as a reformer and an anti-politician.

In dozens of interviews, former aides to the mayor, elected officials, good-government advocates and voters said they have become deeply disillusioned by the way Mr. Bloomberg is corralling support to rewrite the city’s term limits law, which New Yorkers have endorsed twice in citywide referendums.

Over the last three weeks, the mayor and his aides have silenced a potential critic of his third-term bid with the promise of a plum position on a government committee, pressed groups that rely on his donations to speak on his behalf and cajoled union leaders to appear on camera endorsing his agenda.

Those tactics are expected to deliver a victory on Thursday when the City Council votes on whether to allow Mr. Bloomberg to seek a third term. But many of those interviewed say the horse-trading and arm-twisting he has used in pursuing that term are at odds with his claim to being above the fray of rough-and-tumble politics.

“This is the first move that really pushes the boundary of what he can get away with,” said David Garth, a top political strategist in Mr. Bloomberg’s 2001 campaign for mayor. “This is not a good-government move, and Mike knows it.”

Another Bloomberg admirer, Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, who has sided with the mayor on important issues like raising property taxes and his bid to impose a congestion pricing fee, said she and her Upper West Side constituents “love the mayor, but are against this process.”

Mr. Bloomberg, who once called an attempt to ease term limits “disgraceful,” is pushing legislation that would allow him, council members and most other elected city officials to serve three consecutive four-year terms rather than two. Allies say he has enough support to pass it on Thursday.

If he does prevail, the victory may carry a cost to his reputation.

The disenchantment with Mr. Bloomberg runs especially deep among his former aides and advisers at City Hall. In interviews, five of them said they had been surprised and unsettled by the mayor’s tactics. “It stinks of clubhouse politics,” said one former aide. “It’s not like him.”

Another said that when former Bloomberg staff members meet for drinks these days, and the topic turns to his third-term bid, “people roll their eyes and say they are glad to not be there anymore.”

The aides said that they had adopted Mr. Bloomberg’s vision and enlisted in his administration because they believed he was a transformational figure in New York politics.

Richard D. Emery, a civil rights and election lawyer who in the late 1980s helped dismantle the city’s Board of Estimate, which controlled much of the city’s spending, has strongly supported Mr. Bloomberg, describing him as a “terrific politician because he is not a politician.”

“Up until now, he has been a paradigm of what a municipal mayor should be,” Mr. Emery said, but watching Mr. Bloomberg’s heavy-handed approach to remaining in office has left him disaffected, he added.

“He is becoming a typical hack, playing the same old games,” he said. “It’s tragic and it’s sad.”

Friends who originally urged Mr. Bloomberg to seek a third term said he has been taken aback by the depth of the opposition, which has prompted him to engage in a bruising political style he is not entirely comfortable with.

“It has required slightly sharper elbows than anyone would have liked,” said one friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This is not how he prefers to do business. He is not particularly happy with the situation.”

Mr. Bloomberg seems outwardly unperturbed by the criticism, casting his decision to seek a third term as an honorable act of public service. “There is nothing better than to try to make a difference, and if the public wants me, I would be honored to do it for four more years,” he said.

Asked if his aggressive campaign could injure his reputation, he said friends regularly told him that “if you walk away now, you can walk away with a stellar reputation as the world’s greatest mayor.”

“Even if it were true,” he said, “how can you walk away from something when you know there’s going to be tough times? The challenge is to do it now.”

Those frustrated by Mr. Bloomberg’s conduct acknowledge that he is well-equipped to manage New York City in a financial crisis, but they are dismayed by his decision to bypass voters, who remain in favor of the current term limits, according to polls.

In a torrent of e-mail messages and phone calls to members of the Council, voters have voiced their objections. Of the 600 messages sent to Ms. Brewer, for example, 75 percent oppose Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal, she said, even as they praise Mr. Bloomberg for his record on education, crime and city services.

“Power corrupts and as we are seeing now, he is not immune to this common human trait,” said one e-mail message, which added, “I do believe that Michael Bloomberg has done a good job.”

“He’s making a mockery of the system,” said another constituent, who noted that “he has been a relatively good administrator for the city.”

Aides to the mayor said the concept of a Bloomberg third term was supported by a large but silent group of New Yorkers who are not motivated to write their council members.

Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor, said, “Remaining popular was not on his mind” when he decided to seek a third a term, “nor was it when he made decisions like supporting congestion pricing or the smoking ban.”

Mr. Bloomberg has been harshly criticized for striking a deal with Ronald S. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir whose well-financed campaign helped create term limits in 1993. Fearing that Mr. Lauder would oppose him, Mr. Bloomberg promised to appoint him to a charter revision commission that could restore the two-term limit in 2010 and put the issue up for a voter referendum.

David Yassky, a council member from Brooklyn and a close ally of the mayor, said his constituents “very much don’t like the way he is going about changing term limits, and they especially don’t like the feeling that this is a deal among a narrow group of people. That sentiment is near universal.”

Mr. Yassky said 85 percent of the roughly 800 constituents he has heard from object to the mayor’s plan, even though they hold the mayor in high regard and dislike term limits. Like Ms. Brewer, Mr. Yassky has called for a referendum, rather than legislation, to decide whether to change term limits.

Many who are unhappy with the term limits campaign complain that Mr. Bloomberg and the City Council have only held two public hearings about the legislation and are quickly scheduling a vote on the bill in the midst of an intense presidential campaign and an economic crisis.

At those hearings, Mr. Bloomberg’s aides and allies asked groups that have received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of his private donations to testify on his behalf, and allowed supporters to fill seats with people who did not plan to testify.

The mayor’s office said opponents employed similar tactics during the contentious hearings.

Mr. Bloomberg appeared to antagonize his critics over the last few days by saying he did not listen to any of the testimony and by describing many of the speakers at the hearings as “people who emote.” A majority opposed Mr. Bloomberg’s legislation.

Mr. Garth, the political consultant who worked for Mr. Bloomberg, said New Yorkers were discovering that a mayor they revere as the consummate political outsider is capable of disappointing them. “A part of Mike was always too good to be true. The guy makes very few mistakes for a mayor of a city like this. He has been unbelievably successful.”

Still, “there is an arrogance about the mayor, and people resent that.”

21 comments:

Sanaa Elissa Awan said...

Term limits is the only thing that the people can regulate. Powerful leaders can make their own decisions once they are elected. If we change this rule other politicians will try to abuse their power as well. Just because he improved education, crime and city services doesn't mean he should be able to take the chance to be mayor away from another qualified individual.

Anonymous said...

I don't feel that it's fair to make an exception to just Mayor Bloomberg. I feel that it's an abuse of his influence. Although he was a great Mayor, he shouldn't be able to make changes just to have another term.

- N. Budhu

Anonymous said...

A constituent said “He’s making a mockery of the system,” I have to agree to this statement because this is sort of giving the assumption that he has higher power then the system.Yes, he did many many things for New York City, but good things come to an end. Its now time for fresh and new ideas.Therefore i think he should not be able to be the mayor ever again!

-ETHAN ROSENBERG

C.Jones said...

If you ask me, I think that mayor Bloombreg is a very smart man because before he planed to pass this bill which allows him to run for mayor for last term. He looked at every aspect, to see if their was any way anyone could stop him.
Cause if you think of it, if he passes this bill (which he will)the only way someone can elminate the bill is while Bloomberg is in office and he would have already served for his third term.

In some ways I think this new law would be good and in some ways i dont think it wouldn't.I think it would be good to had Bloomberg as a mayor again because he has done alot for our city. But then again this bill inst just for him it alows other city leaders have a chance to run for another term as well, some who may not desevre it.

U. Cheema said...

Mayor Bloomberg shouldn't be given an exception to the rule of serving two terms and be allowed to run for a third-term bid in November 2009 after his second term his over on December 31, 2009.

What sense does his make to give only one person a third term and then restore the law back into a two-term limit in 2010 if Mayor Bloomberg is re-elected?

As Mr. Brown was saying about how there are other mayors and those working in the City Council who are not campaigning for a third term and might be complaining of why aren't they allowed to do the same. To avoid that backlash from the public this shouldn't be done at all.

Alexander said...

I honestly would be extremely surpised if micheal bloomberg did not get his chance to serve a third term .I really think that the people of new york city would probable not like the change but would accept it .Bloomberg hasn't did a bad job . I like his ideas with the education system for new york city and he has been honest with the people and thats all i need from my mayor .So just give him a chance .

amir.p said...

After reading todays article about Mayor Bloomberg and his decision to extend the time in office up to three terms, is not really necessary I think. I believe that Mayor Bloomberg did do a good job in eight years and he really fixed the City, but its time for a change. Hey, Bill Clinton did a good job and we did want him to stay longer but the rules that us people choosed did not let him stay. I agree with what Matt B. said that "Rules is rules". The rules that were made, we should stick to them and elect another Mayor, because their might be somebody better than Mayor Bloomberg. Also, something from the article that was said by Mayor Bloomberg which was "If I get elected for another term, It will be very Honorable." From reading that quote it makes me think that Mayor Bloomberg is really trying to stay for another term, and can almost do anything to pass this law.


amir.p

A. Hughey said...

bloomberg has made such an impact in the city of New York that I dont really think we can find anyone better. Alex was absolutely right when he said that anyone can do Bloombergs job, but i personally believe that no one can do it like he can. i wouldnt even consider him to be a politcian only because hes not like the rest of them. he has always been straight forward with us about everything amd he doesnt have those scam schedules like the rest of them do. i believe that if the people who have to vote decide they want Bloomberg for a another term (despite the rules), i cant see the problem in it...

n.demetrius said...

I think that this new rule to allow a 3rd term is not a bad thing. I think that if the mayor is good for the city then why not? As Mr. Brown said he would still have to be reelected in order to be mayor again so it doesn't mean hes going to be mayor forever.

I believe that he is a good mayor and it would be good for the city to have him serve another term

A. Rao said...

I don't think there should be term limits on anything. If the people feel that a candidate is good enough, they will vote for him.
However, after a certain number of terms, the people should be able to have a recall election like California.

a.potter said...

Power corrupts and as we are seeing now, he is not immune to this common human trait,” said one e-mail message, which added, “I do believe that Michael Bloomberg has done a good job.”

“He’s making a mockery of the system,” said another constituent, who noted that “he has been a relatively good administrator for the city.”

These are examples of people who admire Bloomburg and what he has done for this city. I think that the rule should change. If Bloomburg is doing such a good job, why change it. I think he is doing the right thing by running for a 3rd term. It doesn't make sense to fix something that is not broken. Change is not needed for this city.

M. Frank said...

Mayor Bloomberg and the city council voted to extend term limits today. There are many ways to take this kind of political action. The way many New Yorkers seem to be taking it is that Bloomberg and the city councilmen and women who voted to extend the term limits are crooked politicians who want to stay in office longer. They're job is to represent the people and the people's consensus is that they dislike the idea.
The other way to see this issue is that Bloomberg has done a very good job as mayor and can only be a good thing for the city if he remained in office. He wants to stay mayor to continue helping our city and improving things in all the five boroughs.
I personally think term limits are a good thing and should remain what they are in the case of the city council positions and the mayor. Though it is very hard to argue against giving Mayor Bloomberg another term with all the great things he has done like improving education and the smoking ban.

K. Singh said...

After reading the article today i really don't feel like it's not fair to have Bloomberg run again. I know that he did a great job during his term but that wouldn't be fair for everyone else. If he was going to be re elected, Bill Clinton would want the same as well. We have so many people living in New York, why can't we find another person to run for mayor. What happens if Bloomberg does another great job and if he wanted serve a fourth term. But i would really be surprised if Bloomberg would get to serve a third term.

A Vora said...

I'm undecided about how I feel about this topic so I have two sides to the story.

One reason on why I agree with many of my classmates when they said that it isn't a bad thing to extend term limits. In a way it's a good thing because if the person running is doing the right thing & taking us to a better place, then why not?
If by any chance the person isn't doing the right thing, the obvious thing to do is don't vote for him/her.

One reason why I would disagree with extending term limits is that, This person might start feeling like he/ she “owns us". This is definitely wrong. In the case of Mayor Bloomberg, I mean there are other well qualified people that can take his place. I mean he’s isn’t Mr. Perfect or anything.

Basically, if you want Mayor Bloomberg again, the vote for him, or else just don’t!


-A Vora

k.weston said...

The rules for a term limit are two years. Now who said that the rule can’t change to make the term limit three years? I think that a person like Bloomberg who had a great impact on New York should have a term of three years. If people that want to be mayor in the future see what a great person he is and what he has done then maybe they would want to be like him. They can maybe have tree years in office as mayor as well. He deserves three years in office as mayor.

-k.weston

L. molina said...

I believe that the term limits shouldn't be changed just because one person did a really good job when they were in charge. If this was to have been done so many other candidates would have went for a 3rd term if they were doing such a great job. So in my opinion either the 2 terms should have been kept for everyone without exceptions or the unlimited terms should have been the rule ever since the beginning.

M. Barnett said...

Term limits is a thing that limits one person from having too much power. I am in favor of term limits because i feel it is a fair way of giving people in high positions restrictions. Mayor Bloomberg is being a "power hog" eventhough New York is is dire need of help, he should step a side and give someone else a chance. If everyone before wasn't able to bend the rules for a longer term then why should he be exempt. The same rules that apply for everyone else should also apply for Mr. Bloomberg.

Gitu K. said...

There are term limits for a reason, that means you serve for a certain number of years. The people should choose if he should run again. The changes he made does is very visable. but i think if we elect someone new then we can get new ideas to get a better New York City.

t alexander said...

I think Major Bloomberg is a great Major for the New York City.He did great job about the passing the law.I think people should vote for him so that he can be Major for this term also.The term limits should change because its like a one person staying again and again.

H. Sugrim said...

Seeing how Mayor Bloomberg was able to extend his term limits shows how smart he is. I believe he should stay in New York City as how mayor considering how much he has done.

H. Sugrim said...

Seeing how Mayor Bloomberg was able to extend his term limits shows how smart he is. I believe he should stay in New York City as how mayor considering how much he has done.