Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg secret meetings with media to 'clear a path' for third term- NY Times

NY Times, 8/22/08: "Even as he publicly remains coy about his political future, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has quietly approached some of the city’s most powerful media figures to assess
  • whether their publications would endorse a bid to overturn New York City’s term limits,
  • which could clear a path for him to run for re-election next year.
Over the last several weeks, Mr. Bloomberg has held confidential conversations with
  • Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the News Corporation, which owns The New York Post;
to gauge their views on the issue, according to people familiar with the talks.

Such a move would upend New York’s political world and be a dramatic reversal for the mayor.

  • He has voiced intense opposition in the past to making any changes to the term limits law, which restricts citywide elected officials and members of the City Council to two consecutive terms in office.

Given his popularity, a third-term campaign by Mr. Bloomberg could force mayoral hopefuls, like Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Representative Anthony D. Weiner and Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., to rethink their plans.

New York voters passed term limits in 1993, and polls show they remain strongly in favor of them,

  • a major obstacle for any campaign by the mayor.

Mr. Bloomberg is trying to appeal to influential business leaders, especially in the news media,

  • to sway public opinion in his favor,
  • people familiar with the matter said.

Many of the city’s top business executives have privately said they are dissatisfied with the field of candidates who are likely to run for mayor next year, and are seeking a way to keep Mr. Bloomberg in office.

Mr. Bloomberg is hoping that

will back a campaign to ease the limits, giving him

  • some political cover in what would certainly be a contentious battle.

About a month ago, Mr. Bloomberg sounded out Mr. Murdoch at a dinner at a restaurant in downtown Manhattan about whether The Post might support an effort to overturn the city’s term limits law.

A person close to Mr. Zuckerman said he was open to the idea of a third term for Mr. Bloomberg, and suspected The Post and The Times would be, too.

Representatives of Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Sulzberger declined to comment, and a spokesman for Mr. Zuckerman could not be reached by phone.

  • A spokesman for the mayor, Stu Loeser, also declined to comment.

“We don’t discuss personal conversations the mayor may or may not have with people,” Mr. Loeser said in an e-mail message....

The mayor could pursue several avenues to overturn term limits, but the most likely is through the City Council, which can pass legislation permitting a third term with or without a public referendum, said Randy M. Mastro, the former deputy mayor for operations under Rudolph W. Giuliani and a lawyer who has tried cases dealing with term limits.

  • “That may have a certain political appeal to the mayor and City Council speaker,” Mr. Mastro said, “given that both face term limits.”

Of course a move by the City Council to ease or undo term limits — without ratification by voters

  • would be potentially politically explosive, and members of the Council could face a backlash if they supported it.

Another option for the mayor — a ballot initiative overturning term limits — would have to be completed in the next two weeks to be considered during this November’s election,

  • which Mr. Mastro said “cannot be accomplished” because of the time needed to collect signatures and overcome various legal hurdles.

Those familiar with the mayor’s overtures to the publishers said

  • that characterized his last push to revise the city’s election rules.

In 2003, the mayor tried to institute nonpartisan elections, spending millions of his own fortune to overturn the century-old system of Democratic- and Republican-dominated politics.

  • But editorials in The Times, The Post and Newsday urged people to vote against the plan, which they did, overwhelmingly,

in a stinging defeat for the mayor.

  • “He does not want to repeat that,” said a person familiar with the mayor’s thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity....

The idea that Mr. Bloomberg may be seeking a way to serve another term has set off intense chatter among the city’s leading politicians. Asked by reporters on Friday, Gov. David A. Paterson enthusiastically endorsed it, saying the mayor had expertly handled the city’s economic challenges.

  • “So Mayor Bloomberg, if he wants to run for mayor a third time I think it’s a great idea,” said Mr. Paterson, a Harlem Democrat.

Of course, if the mayor decided to run again, it would eliminate him as a potential challenger

  • to Mr. Paterson for governor in 2010."

NY Times, 8/22/08, "Bloomberg said to test a term-limit reversal," by Michael Barbaro and Tim Arango

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