Saturday, October 18, 2008

The debate over term limits and the billionaire bully who is pulling the strings

See today’s NY Times, which reports how members of the Bloomberg administration, including Linda Gibbs, Deputy mayor for Health and Human services, are urging the beneficiaries of city contracts and his private fortune to lobby the City Council to overturn term limits so he can run for a third term.

The article mentions the involvement of several organizations in giving testimony this week on behalf of the Mayor during the City council hearings on term limits that have received substantial city contracts and private donations from the Mayor. Most prominent among them are the Doe Fund, an organization for the homeless, which has received either $150,000 from the Mayor’s own pockets, according to the Times, or more than $2 million, according to the Daily News (anonymously donated by the Mayor’s accountant after the organization honored Bloomberg at a fundraising dinner in 2005.)

According to the Times, not only did the head of the Doe Fund testify at City Hall in support of overturning term limits, but at least 11 Doe Fund staff members as well, most of whom did not identify their employer, but instead described themselves as ordinary citizens.

See also the Daily News blog, which further details how the organization bused nearly 50 homeless men from shelters in support to City Hall in support of the Mayor, a fact which the organization first denied and then finally admitted. The group’s spokesman later claimed that these men were all volunteers who simply wanted to support the mayor.

One wonders whether how legal this all this – pushing nonprofit groups to literally campaign in favor of the mayor’s ability to run for office again.

Geoffrey Canada is also mentioned as one of the individuals who testified to overturn term limits; Canada is also co-chair of the Mayor’s effort to retain Mayoral control of the schools, and who has received at least $500,000 for his charter school from Bloomberg in recent years.

The Mayor’s bullying tactics have long been clear to many of us in the educational advocacy world – and those organizations that have had the nerve to speak up against his policies have had their city contracts and donations from Bloomberg drastically cut – in some instances, to the tune of nearly one million dollars.

It is about time that the rest of the world finally woke up to the ruthlessness of this Mayor – and his determination to use his personal fortune and political power to ensure that non-profit groups comply with his every whim and keep silent if they disagree with his policies.


Anonymous said...

I am one of the employees of The Doe Fund who came to testify last week -- because this is an issue I care about as a New Yorker, not because of my employer! I wasn't paid or somehow coerced to be there and am offended at the suggestion that I am not allowed to have my own personal opinion.

Furthermore, I am proud to work for this organization, which is completely dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated and formerly homeless people become self-sufficient. The Doe Fund is a Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Charity, and if you want the TRUTH about what The Doe Fund is all about, you can take a look here:

Anonymous said...


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Orkut Messenger

Anonymous said...

The stories are pouring in about how members of the NYC Council were convinced to vote for an extension of term limits --- one that will allow Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to seek a third term in office.

The Council’s most obvious incentive to support the measure was that it benefited them --- at least those ready to be term-limited out. But this, alone, could have been countered by constituent outrage and by lack of support by Council first-termers, whose hopes for seniority and leadership would now be delayed.

Less obvious was Mr. Bloomberg’s singular ability --- carefully validated by the city’s editorial boards --- to convince Council members that he would prevail, get himself re-elected, and continue to control the "member items" and access to his commissioners that Council members depend on to get themselves re-elected.

Then --- notwithstanding Doe Fund employee messages --- there are the stories of how Bloomberg used his vast personal wealth to convince heads of not-for-profits his foundation supports, to lobby wavering Council members, and, more speculatively, to use his private sector resources to guarantee a safe harbor for any key supporter who leaves government.

But the take-away from this experience is not about term limits. It is about the huge power that the 1989 NYC Charter revision, combined with vast personal wealth, bestows on a Mayor, and how no one --- not the Council, not the public, and not outraged good-government groups --- can counter it.

The cure is not a reversion to term limits. Eight years is enough time for a wealthy, powerful successor to Bloomberg, especially one more flawed than he is, to do a great deal of harm.

The cure is a new charter revision --- one that would have to be initiated by the State legislature, not the City --- that would overcome the Voting Rights Act objections that forced the dissolution of the pre-1989 Board of Estimate, and restore some balance between the two ends of City Hall.


Evergreenspan said...

4 more years of Joel Klein. The system can't take that.
Four more years of this administration means that teachers will be blamed for everything over and over. 600 schools will never come back and as a result, violence and disruption will continue to be the order of the day.
Class size will continue to grow with the resulting discipline problems escalating day after day.
55 Water St. will become a very popular place as eligible teachers and administrators will continue filing for retirement in record numbers.