Bloomberg's Term-Limits Coup: Heroes, Villains, and Wimps

Brutal brawling in the first throwdown of the 2009 elections

You had to wonder what dybbuk got into the Council Speaker that she had the dismal Larry Seabrook give the opening prayer for Thursday's session. Seabrook, poster child for council slush-fund abuse, skipped the morning vote on the bill by the governmental operations committee, where he is one of just seven members. His excuse? "They were installing windows in my apartment."

The brutal drubbing that good government took last week could be read plainly on the faces of its staunchest advocates. Public-interest lawyer Gene Russianoff—the city's conscience for 25 years—sat forlornly in the council chambers before the vote. His usual powerful ally, the Times editorial board, had that morning shamed itself again with another pro-Bloomberg pitch. "It doesn't look good, does it?" he said. Behind him sat Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union, which twice endorsed the mayor and relies on a hefty annual Bloomberg contribution. Dadey courageously bucked him on term limits nonetheless.

Still, there were flashes of hope. As you looked across the room wondering where New York's Barack Obamas were, up popped feisty and resilient Letitia James of Brooklyn, denouncing democracy's hijacking. A few rows behind was Gale Brewer from the West Side, as true a public servant as the city has. Brewer openly pined for a third term at a job she loves, but ultimately cast her vote against the mayor she admires, saying, "We bear a heightened responsibility." Rosie Mendez, of the Lower East Side, did the same, as did Charles Barron, David Weprin, Tony Avella, Eric Gioia, John Liu, Jimmy Oddo, and a dozen others who stood tall.

Bloomberg and Quinn may have carried the day, but you had to believe they bought themselves a world of future political pain in doing so. As any tinpot banana republic generalissimo will tell you, the next coup is always around the corner.

« Previous Page