2:30: They’re getting through the preliminary business fast. Well, at least we get to see what a vote on a land use motion looks like. Everyone votes aye except one joker who says, “No — I’m just kidding, I’m practicing for later.” Joel Rivera follows, saying, “I’m practicing for later — yes!”
2:36: Quinn bellows some opening remarks about “challenging times like these” and giving voters “the choice to continue their current leadership.” When she talks about people “mischaracterizing this bill” as a “backroom deal,” there is grumbling; Sergeant at Arms calls for quiet. Refers to all the papers that approve, including something called the “Staten Island Advair.” Names famous people who want more Bloomberg. Feels strongly that the bill is about “increasing voter choice” — so much so that she repeats it. As to the “deal between billionaires,” names a bunch of supporters, says “we’re a lot of things but we ain’t billionaires.” Will vote for Into 845-A and against any amendments that would “weaken” it. Pleads for comity, reminding everyone that they have to work together afterwards.
2:43: Yassky puts in his amendment calling for referendum. Acknowledges this is an “unusual” step. Agrees term limits should be changed, and doesn’t want to “go against the voters” and suggests that Bloomberg supporters who share his feelings should vote with him. Says “you know the arguments,” repeats them anyway. Adds that “cynicism” may result from the repeal, and in this crisis the government needs all the support it can get. Insists the referendum can be arranged as early as February. Believes the voters will pass the referendum question, mentioning the support Bloomberg has — a nice turnaround on what Quinn said in defense of the council bill.
2:50: Councilmember whose name I didn’t catch opens short speeches in support of Yassky. Charles Barron says Bloomberg got richer as mayor and that Hugo Chavez wanted to get rid of term limits, too, but bowed to the will of the people. “Mayor Bloomberg,” he concluded, “Be like Hugo.” David Weprin and Alan Gerson (who sounds like the walrus from “Futurama”) can’t top that.
Now an opponent: Lewis Fidler says there’s “no way” that this process can go through in time. But a fired-up Tish James cites Golden v. NYC, says the referendum is “required.” Vincent Gentile says the term limits bill treats the people like an “obstacle”; amendment shows that the people are “still being heard.” Robert Jackson says his Manhattan constituency is against term limits, so he has no problem voting for the bill without a referendum.
Jesus, everyone’s talking. Anthony Como says “the cost alone, minimal, will be $15 million” for a referendum, and anyway, he knows how the people will vote. Rosie Mendez also brings up the $15 million, but goes MasterCard, says “Democracy: priceless.” Says, oddly, democracy is not about choosing “the best solution,” but about “choosing the better solution.”
(Everyone says they’re against term limits, by the way. They’re like Clintons talking about abortion.)
Annabel Palma offers modest support. Vincent Ingnizio does Tom Cruise from A Few Good Men, grows hoarse, speaks directly to the people, quotes Lincoln. John Liu says “elected officials would never enact term limits on themselves — it came from the people.” (Yeah, the people who live in the Lauder mansion.) Cites the Republican term-limits fever of the 1990s. Says he’s “encouraged, I’ve cajoled — and coerced sometimes” to get them to vote (quick, start an investigation!) and doesn’t want to discourage them.
Tony Avella says they’re all in the Council because of term limits, and the people voted twice. “Do you want to be remembered as the politician who ignored the will of the people?” Melissa Mark-Viverito worries about instilling cynicism, says the referendum “honors” the commitment of the council to voters’ will. Eric Gioia agrees, says the bill without a referendum means “democracy is only okay when you agree with the powerful” and “the game is rigged.”
G. Oliver Koppell says the referendum can’t pass in time, particularly with the Justice Department’s meddling, and Bloomberg’s assured veto. Also predicts chaos, which would be “unfair” to the candidates. “I proposed two years ago that we should have a referendum,” he says, “it’s too late now.”
3:22: Vote — defeated 28 to 22.
Barron says we still have a chance “to say no to the Mayor.” And here we go again.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 23, 2008