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Charter Shenanigans
October 6th, 2008

Charter revision would appear to be the wonkiest of all issues. Because or in spite of that, though, the last two mayors have used the issue of changing the rules regarding city government as a cudgel for getting their way in other areas.

Witness Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s machinations this weekend. In an effort to win billionaire Ronald Lauder’s support for changing term limits so Bloomberg can run again, Bloomberg reportedly promised Lauder a seat on a charter revision commission. (Lauder supports only a one-time extension; many City Council members want a permanent change from two terms to three, and Bloomberg, it seems fair to say, supports whatever will get him four more years). The Post reports that a charter commission appointed by the mayor and apparently including Lauder “would study reverting to a two-term limit and put it on the ballot in 2010″ — by which time Bloomberg would already be in his third term. In return for the commission post, Lauder would not put those dirty diaper ads back on TV.

“Obviously, one billionaire is bending over backward to get another billionaire on board,” said Councilmember John Liu told the Post “Never before have I seen such a vivid exposure of how much control the New York elite still tries to exert.”

The mayor’s latest move has raised eyebrows, according to The Politicker, because, Bloomberg promised to create a charter revision commission last January and then said and did nothing about it until this weekend.

Had the mayor appointed a charter revision commission earlier this year as he said he would do in his State of the City Address, this issue could have been discussed and put before the voters this November to decide,” Dick Dadey, executive director of created a charter revision commission with the apparent purpose of keeping the voters from deciding whether government money should pay for a new stadium for Giuliani’s beloved Yankees . Under state law, charter revisions proposed by a mayoral commission get on the ballot first, in essence bumping off measures proposed by other New Yorkers, such as the one on the Yankees.

Similarly, in 2005,Bloomberg’s charter revision commission placed two rather obscure measures on the ballot — one calling for new ethics rules for hearing officers and the other related to financial audit of the city. Those issues pushed a question on limiting class size in city public schools off the ballot, despite a petition drive.

“Charter revision commissions should be used to meet serious challenges to the city’s constitution, not to advance the mayor’s politics,” said then City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a backer of the class size referendum .

Apparently not.

(For more on the mayor’s reelection bid, see “Going for Three.”)

By on October 6, 2008, 12:39 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | No Comments »

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