Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DePaolo: Hugo and Mike

The following was written by Phil De Paolo:

President Hugo Chavez won a voter referendum to eliminate term limits yesterday. 54 percent had voted for the constitutional amendment, 46 percent had voted against it. The vote was hastily arranged in the last two months. The campaigning was marked by antigovernment protests and attacks by supporters of Mr. Chávez on institutions viewed as critical of the president, including media organizations.

In NYC Mayor Bloomberg scrapped the city's term limit law in a little over two weeks. He's used the city council to pass a bill that would allow him to seek four more years in office. On October 23, 2
008 the City Council voted 29-22 in favor of extending the term limit to three consecutive four year terms, thus allowing both Bloomberg and council members in their second terms to run for office again. New Yorkers were upset by the Mayor's actions and the 29 City Council people who voted for the extension of term limits. Whether they were for term limits or not they strongly believe that the process was wrong. If there was to be a change, it had to be via a public referendum not by legislation. By an overwhelming margin, 89 percent to 7 percent, voter say the issue of term limits should be decided by voters in a referendum, not by an act of the Council.
“Voters to City Council: We voted for term limits twice and, if it’s going to change, it should be us not you who decide it,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gestures as he leaves the polling station

Chavez opponents claim that the results were skewed by Chavez's broad use of resources to get out the vote, through news media and pressure on 2 million public employees. Mr. Chávez threw the weight of institutions controlled by his supporters, including the National Assembly and the entire federal bureaucracy, behind the proposal. The powerful national oil company, and the national telephone company mobilized employees to campaign for the measure.

Opponents say Chavez already has far too much power, with the courts, the legislature and the election council all under his influence. Removing the presidential term limit, they s
ay, makes him unstoppable.

In NYC Mayor Bloomberg held conversations with Rupert Murdoch, Who owns The New York Post; Mortimer B. Zuckerman, a close friend and the owner of The Daily News; and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher 
of The Times, to help him overturn term limits. Days later the New York Post and the Daily News, both ran editorials under the headline "Run, Mike, Run" that called for changing the rules so that Mr. Bloomberg could stand for re election. And the New York Times complained that the term limits law "is particularly unappealing now because it would deny New Yorkers at a time when the city's economy is under great stress the right to decide for themselves whether an effective and popular mayor should stay in office."

The paper took the opposite view seven years ago, when there was talk of extending the second term of Mr. Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, in the wake of 9/11. "To suggest that the city would be incapable of getting along without Mr. Giuliani undermines New York's sense of self sufficiency," said the Times. "While Mr. Giuliani has been a great leader during this crisis, the truth is that no one is indispensable.

Mayor Bloomberg then showered cash on key City Council members with the power to kill the term limits extension bill. Members of the council's Government Operations Committee received millions from Bloomberg’s slush fund, a secret pot of taxpayer money the mayor doled out to favored lawmakers for their pet causes. Five members of the committee secured $3.1 million from the $5.3 million stash in Bloomberg's 2008 budget.

The New York Times reported days after the Term Limits debate that the Mayor and his top deputies had pressed social service, arts and neighborhood groups that received donations from Mr. Bloomberg to express support for his third term bid by testifying during public hearings and by personally appealing to undecided members of the City Council. A few days later the mayor’s aides organized a press conference in which nearly a dozen union leaders endorsed the legislation to extend term limits. Fifteen minutes before the event began, the union leaders met inside City Hall with Edward Skyler, the deputy mayor for operations, to discuss what they would say, according to people briefed on the matter. When they emerged to speak to reporters, the labor officials sounded strikingly similar themes, at times using the same words. So it seems that Hugo and Mike used many of the same methods to get what they wanted although Hugo actually let the people vote on it. Mayor Bloomberg just used the City Council.


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