There's another important question to ask, a question about the shape city government should take.
If we don't already have a law that allows the calling of a referendum by petition -- as California has -- then we need one. But we should also demand more of our Council politicians.
Looking at a third Bloomberg term, we have a city where a technocratic executive branch rams the legislative for whatever it wants. While it's often efficient, that technocracy also pays lip service to real accountability -- Bloomberg lieutenants are more interested in spinning an obvious failure into looking like a success than admitting they made a mistake and trying something different -- and manipulates statistics to look like transparency. The legislative branch, through their political organizations, really control the judicial. And if the executive is plagued by occasional incompetence, the legislative branch is absolutely rife with corruption. Discretionary funding goes to non-profits whose employees later "volunteer" to carry petitions, if they're not legislators' relatives; favored lawyers become judges, and others are paid to play with the money of the helpless thanks to appointments from surrogate's court; Council members allegedly take kickbacks to help grease the wheels in the land use committee.
Nobody has a real serious shot at knocking Bloomberg from his office in City Hall next year.
But there are strong candidates for the other citywide elected positions, that promised charter revision commission in 2010, and a whole host of spineless City Council members ripe to be tossed from incumbency by their belt loops. A City Hall where it's Bloomberg who sits barricaded, not the City Council, is entirely feasible. In that kind of climate -- especially with a charter revision commission forming that could put more than just term limits on a referendum ballot -- progressive voices could institute systemic change. But it will take realistic goals, and an organization.
Draw 'em a picture, Rock, in which they throw out those bums.
If there were ever polls to be believed, then believe the ones that say most of New York City believes their members of City Council last week showed their constituencies exactly what they think: That come November, voters exist to keep them in bespoke suits and taxpayer money.
We're not the only ones furious at this flat statement of elected officials' faith in their ability to flaunt the power their voters gave them. But without a constructive outlet, this energy will disperse like the mob at the scene of a car crash. So come on, Rock. Tell 'em how they're going to organize new political clubs, scare up candidates, drum up money. Write 'em a manual on how to get a voter list, go door to door and carry petitions. Help 'em figure out the campaign finance disclosure forms.
Give it up, New York voters: the term limits fight will never be about what you think.
The formidable Sewell Chan and Jon Hicks, working — in shifts, I hope — for the Cityroom blog all morning, afternoon, and even as I write this, beer in hand, late Thursday night, have made it quite clear. If anyone in the room with a fancy lapel pin gave a tinker's damn what any of us thought, would they really have made those of us that went wait hours upon hours before letting us so much as clear our throats?
Like most public hearings on important issues in the five boroughs, the ones that still continue are an opportunity for politicians to show their gracious and democratic nature to the public that they serve. The decision has already been made; barring another backroom deal, that term limits legislation will pass the City Council is a fait accompli. Public voices will be audible but not listened to.
If I was Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, I wouldn't be concerned by suggestions that I shot and killed congestion pricing.
At best, I'd call it a mercy killing; euthanasia. At worst, justifiable homicide.
Drowned out, as usual, by the shrill tone of editorial boards looking to get a quick rise out of their readers, some columnists took a careful and measured look at congestion pricing and found that its advantages are dubious and its problems multifarious.
And some otherwise ludicrous proposals put forward to rebut congestion pricing were pregnant with good ideas: an increased no-gridlock enforcement zone in Lower Manhattan; tighter no-cruising enforcement laws for livery cabs. That's not to say there weren't boondoggles mixed in that made discussing them politically impossible. In one case, these simple policy changes were rolled up with the idea, oft-rejected, of a rail tunnel from Brooklyn to New Jersey to cut down on truck traffic.
But listen very, very carefully, and you can hear the counting of dollar bills.
The budget's passed. Congestion pricing is dead. State legislators are up for re-election in seven months. For the most industrious of them, it's time to start selling their integrity.
I mean, fundraising.
Tonight was the Take Back the Senate fundraiser, hosted by the Bronx Democratic Committee. A $400-a-plate City Island soiree intended to kick up money for the Democrats' stated goal of taking the Senate, it's just the most notable of the political horse-trading that comes with the summer before an election.
It appears that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn admitted to knowingly pulling funds out of the budget process in her first year as speaker.
I mentioned this Thursday night, in the second of what I hope will be weekly quasi-editorials. It seems that people read my use of the royal "we," and my failure to properly support the statement, and figured I was just another almost-libelous hack.
I didn't feel like I had to back it up because I thought that the next morning's papers would explain. After all, she made this admission in response to direct questioning from reporters. A link to the video of the press conference and a transcript of the exchange in which she made the admission follow the jump.
It has become increasingly clear in recent weeks that there are two ways, as a leader, to handle a scandal: To beg incompetence or to admit immorality. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has bucked the trend by picking the former — but as with the dramatic confession, this does not allow her to escape responsibility for a practice she admitted to allowing to continue in her first year as Speaker.
Quinn's Waterloo (Ashley Dupre?) came Thursday morning across the front page of The New York Post: For decades, the office of the City Council Speaker has squirreled away public money for pet projects. More recently, it has been held as earmarked for fictitious community-based organizations, which strikes us as some jaded staffer's idea of irony.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's politically convenient concern for the law has been bothering me for days now.
This topic that has caused my mind to fester is delicately referred to in the Gotham Gazette as "The Jersey Inequity." Most often raised by outer-borough politicians — especially state Assembly members, who not coincidentally are in a period of enhanced civic-mindedness, it being just a few months until November — this particular injustice concerns New Jersey drivers, who must pay $8 when they enter the city via the Holland Tunnel, for example.