Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

GL Analysis: October 23, 2008, A Day That May Live in New York City Political Infamy

October 23rd, 2008 · 8 Comments

Après moi, le déluge. Today, come Mayor Michael Bloomberg and, to a lesser extent, by Borough President Marty Markowitz saying the same thing. Without them and their superb leadership we will all be lost. And so, it is imperative that one of most grotesque subversions of democracy that any of us will ever witness short of a coup d’etat in Washington will happen today in New York City when the City Council votes to end term limits. (There is still hope than an amendment to subject it to a public referendum has enough votes to pass, thank God.) But, if not, the Mayor and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have traded enough votes and favors to overturn turn limits and allow incumbents to extend their own terms in office. In this sense, Mayor Bloomberg is morphing into our very own Vladimir Putin and Marty Markowitz into Brooklyn’s own low-rent version of Napoleon.

This issue today is not whether or not term limits makes sense, it’s whether they should be retroactively applied by people who stand to benefit from the change. There are compelling arguments for term limits both pro and con. We’ve never been certain whether we favor or oppose them, although decades of reporting on urban America has taught us that the longer mayors stay in office, the more likely they are to putrify in both an ethical and public policy sense. Mayors like Marion Barry in Washington, Coleman Young in Detroit, Sharpe James in Newark and both Richard Daleys in Chicago come to mind. Some went to jail. Other should have. And, they all went really bad after a couple of terms in office.

Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that only he can lead New York out of the fiscal wilderness is political hogwash of the most ridiculous kind. Borough President Markowitz’s stated desire to keep playing Brooklyn cheerleader is nothing more than a transparent excuse for steering more taxpayer money to favored organizations and political favors to developers. Even Rudy Giuliani, while trying to suspend the election after 9/11, didn’t go this far. And few American politicians have ever had the gall and anti-democratic leanings to leave a such a major change in electoral policy to backroom political deals rather than put it to a public vote even if it’s only because of the little obstacles put in place by the Constitution. We’d expect such chicanery of George W. Bush. We find it utterly revolting to come from Micheal Bloomberg, Christine Quinn and Marty Markowitz.

No change in term limits should ever be retroactive to those voting upon it and no change in term limits should every be considered without a public referendum. Of course, should the Putin & Napoleon City Hall/Borough Hall Putsch succeed today, voters will be able to have the ultimate revenge by voting the bastards out of office, as the old saying goes.

We’d go one step further and suggest the appointment of a special commission to investigate the deals that are being cut and, while they’re at it, to look into the financial shenanigans that have been going on at Brooklyn Borough Hall under the guise of being happy and jolly. Anyone that knows how development deals have been cut and economic development policies have been conducted over the last eight years knows that these people should not be rewarded with another four or eight or twelve more years to steer billions of dollars in city projects to political friends.

Mayor Bloomberg, while talking the talk of NYC 2030, has presided over an administration that has made disastrous planning decisions for which our grandchildren and great grandchildren will pay. The Jolly Dude in Borough Hall (who has shown himself to have a volcanic, Nixon-like temper and demeanor in private) has presided over the raping of his borough’s historical character and the destruction of things we will never get back.

What, after all, is the Bloomberg-Markowitz legacy? Development that has outstripped investment in infrastructure. A planning process that is so opaque that even experts have a hard time following it. Fiscal sleights of hand that have financially destabilized the city while creating the illusion of stability. Support for rezonings that are destroying neighborhoods. Continued underfunding and appointment of hacks to key city agencies like the Department of Buildings that have done violence to quality of life and literally murdered people. The list of outrages goes on and on and on and on and on.

For this, Vladimir Putin Michael Bloomberg and Napoleon Marty Markowitz deserve to be shown the door at the expiration of their terms, not rewarded by an obscene anti-democratic move like allowing themselves to run for another term. If they get away with it, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If this happens, organize groups to mount legal challenges to this power grab and, failing that, come Election Day 2009, show them the door.

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lovin' the 80's // Oct 23, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Extending term limits is not the same as extending the term of the people in charge. The voters still have to do that.

    Any change in term limits has to be “retroactive” as you say by it’s nature. You can’t pass a law for the next guy, you have to pass it currently.

    And Bloomberg has done a lot to improve the quality of life in Brooklyn and the city at large, not the least of which is a large expansion in the amount of parks and bike lanes.

  • 2 Brenda from Flatbush // Oct 23, 2008 at 9:54 am

    “the more likely they are to putrefy”: best quote of the day, and most cogent observation on the subject.

  • 3 Feral // Oct 23, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I could not agree with you more. The biggest part of the sham is how wealthy Bloomberg is, and how he has literally bought his way onto the throne

    For shame.

  • 4 frencheese // Oct 23, 2008 at 11:25 am

    “après mois le déluge” was from Louis XIV ( “Nec pluribus impar”) who also said “I depart, but the State shall always remain”; something that Bloomberg should think about.

    Napoléon did a great work in reorganizing France’s administrative structure which was used as a model to modern occidental democracies including th US.
    Even if he took power very personal and was aggressive with European autocracies , I would not compare him to Putin or Bloomberg.

  • 5 Brooks of Sheffield // Oct 23, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I am with you, Robert. Well said. What I find most disturbing about this whole process is how all the voices of protest from politicians, citizens, the media, polls have apparently left Bloomberg completely unmoved. There is really nothing anyone can say to him that would move him from his pre-determined course of action. What good is a leader who will listen to no other opinion than his own? In that way, yes, he is like Putin.

  • 6 Matt // Oct 24, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Regardless of the good things that Bloomberg has done (I’m a cyclist so I do enjoy his “green” planning) I REFUSE to vote for ANY POLITICIAN who abhors DEMOCRACY. Markowitz is just a scrub.


  • 7 Acey // Feb 11, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I agree with frencheese.

    As a historian, I find it appealing that you would place Napoleon on the same stand as Putin and Bloomberg on the same level. I would hardly qualify Putin as having been a great man of state, and the father of so many contemporary laws that still influence many a modern democracy. His civil code of 1804 is the base of the laws and constitutions in Louisiana, Quebec, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and so many more. He built France’s first reliable roads network, gave it its modern administrative system, a solid educative program (which is the one that was adopted by most European countries) and so much more.

    As for the common stereotype about Napoleon wanting supposedly to conquer the world, consider this:

    When he took power in 1799 over a derelict Republic, France was in war against Russia, England, Spain, Prussia, The Holy Germanic Empire, Austria.

    The wars he led, as aggressive as he might have been where first and foremost defensive wars for most of them. I don’t think he ever actually planned to ‘conquer the world’ but more planned to force European monarchies to recognize him.

    And please, don’t exaggerate…What Bloomberg is doing is hardly comparable to what Putin is putting his country through!

    You can tell what you want about Bloomberg, he is not gonna come at you with hit men. That’s hardly the same thing as Putin consciously organizing the death and destruction of his opponents.

    Not wanting to seem mean and offensive, and I do understand irony, but I just wish people would actually open history books before saying things like ‘Napoleon is to France what Hitler was to Germany’ (sorry, not aimed at you I just read that on the web). Napoleon never planned a massive genocide…On the other hand, those who usually spread those kind of rumors, the Brits, are the very same who instituted internment and concentration camps against the Boers at the end of the 19th century…And that’s of course after this very country used them in the 30s against the Cherokees in the Indian Wars.

  • 8 Acey // Feb 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Uh, I somehow forgot a word…I meant to say that NAPOLEON was the father of many modern laws.

    Sorry tired…I am in the midst of preparing a lesson plan for my students and somehow trying to read the news on the Syracuse University website, while doing my ppt and writing this note.

    i guess I am not good at multitasking!