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10/10/08 Affairs and Appointments

10/10/08 Affairs and Appointments

New York City

Public Hearings


Appointments

Marisa Lago as Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development.
Governor David Paterson this week announced that he has nominated Marisa Lago, who is Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development. Ms. Lago will have complete oversight of economic development issues throughout New York State.

Robert LiMandri Sworn-in as NYC Buildings Commissioner.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg this morning swore-in Robert LiMandri as Commissioner of the Department of Buildings . LiMandri, who has more than 19 years of engineering, real estate and construction management experience in the private and nonprofit sectors, has served as Acting Commissioner since April 2008 and has been part of the Department of Buildings’ senior management since 2002.

Emily Lloyd Steps Down As Commissioner of NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
Read the Mayor’s press release on Commissioner Lloyd’s resignation here.

Notable Sayings of the Week

Ron Lauder and I met today and continued our conversation about term limits and the future of New York City. Ron and I share many of the same goals and many of the same concerns, and I am proud to have his support for the legislation our administration introduced in the City Council this week.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, commenting on a meeting at Gracie Mansion this Wednesday with Ronald S. Lauder to discuss New York City term limits.  In exchange for agreeing to form a Charter Revision Commission to present to voters a ballot initiative on term limits in 2010, Mr. Bloomberg secured Mr. Lauder’s support for proposed City Council legislation to amend New York City’s term limits law to enable incumbent City officials to serve three year four terms, up from two (and allowing Mr. Bloomberg to seek a third term in 2009).

This afternoon I met with Mayor Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion. We had an in-depth and positive discussion about term limits and the pending legislation before the City Council. As many people know, I have been a fervent supporter of term limits for many years. My personal belief in ordinary times is that two terms is the appropriate number.
However, these are extraordinary times and we are in the midst of a financial emergency. For those reasons, I will reluctantly support the Mayor’s legislation to extend term limits to three terms, with the understanding that I will serve on a Charter Revision Commission which will place the question of the number of terms before the voters in 2010. At that point, I will vigorously support a return to a two-term limit. The people have spoken before and will speak again; until then, this is the best solution to make sure we have a steady hand at the wheel during this financial emergency.

Ronald S. Lauder (through a spokesman, Howard J. Rubenstein), commenting on his meeting with Mayor Bloomberg.

This deal announced from Gracie Mansion today would trade one appointment for the right of all New Yorkers to vote.

Representative Anthony D. Weiner, who is expected to run for mayor in 2009, commenting on the meeting between Mayor Bloomberg and Ronald S. Lauder.

Special: New York City Term Limits

The coming week will likely see significant public comment and legislative maneuvering on term limits.  Four different pieces of term limits legislation have now been introduced in the City Council; Mayor Bloomberg has persuaded arguably the most powerful advocate for term limits – billionaire Ronald S. Lauder – to support his proposal for an extension of term limits from 8 years to 12 years; opposition to Council revision of term limits exists, however, and at least one influential political organization – the Working Families Party – is actively lobbying against the Mayor’s proposal.

Below is a preview of the week ahead, as well as samples of contributions to the debate on term limits so far.

Public Hearings on Term Limits Legislation

From the City Council’s website:

Two public hearings will be held on the Term Limits Legislation.

The first will be on Thursday, October 16th at 1 PM in the City Hall Council Chambers. This hearing will extend as late into the evening as is necessary to ensure all testimony is heard.

The second is on Friday, October 17th at 10 AM in the Committee Room at City Hall.

All term limits legislation is being reviewed by the Committee on Governmental Operations.

Registering for Testimony at the Public Hearings

Individuals who wish to give testimony may do so by registering at either hearing. Written testimony is strongly encouraged and can be submitted at the hearings or mailed to Matt Gewolb at:
New York City Council
250 Broadway, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Testimony can also be submitted electronically to testimony@council.nyc.gov.

Council Members Introduce Term Limits Legislation

At a public hearing on October 17th, the Council’s Government Operations Committee (chaired by Councilman Simcha Fedler) will review four different pieces of terms limits legislation; below is a brief review of the three separate bills and one resolution (all of which can be downloaded at the Council’s homepage).

Introduction 845 – A Local Law to amend the New York City Charter, in relation to term limits for elected officials

By Council Member Felder, by the request of the Mayor.

This bill proposes extending term limits to 3 terms; this is the bill that Mayor Bloomberg hopes to pass – revision of term limits through City Council legislation. 
Since the Mayor by law cannot introduce legislation to the Council, when he wants to introduce a bill the chairman of the appropriate committee does it by the Mayor’s request.

Introduction 850 – A Local Law to amend the New York City Charter in relation to providing that any changes to term limits for elected officers must be submitted for the approval of the electors.

By Council Members Weprin, deBlasio, Gioia, and Liu

This bill proposes that changes to term limits can be made only through popular referendum. Passing this bill would bar the Council from changing existing term limits via legislation; if passed, Mayor Bloomberg would likely veto this bill.

Pre-considered Introduction (no number yet assigned) – A Local Law to Establish a Charter Revision Commission to Draft a New or Revised City Charter

By Council Members James, de Blasio, and Weprin

Introduced by two of the same Council Members at Intro 850, and a logical corollary to Intro 850’s intent, this bill proposes submitting term limits revisions to a popular referendum in February 2009.  Proponents of this approach argue that since term limits were introduced and reaffirmed by referendum (in 1993 and 1997), they should be revised only by referendum.

In rebuttal, Mayor Bloomberg argues that too few voters participate in special elections, making changes to term limits via special election susceptible to legal challenge – on the ground that staking revisions to the city charter on the results of an election with unusually low turnout might constitute a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Resolution 1640 – Resolution calling upon the State legislature to adopt legislation amending the State Municipal Home Rule Law (MHRL) to give the City the authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to voter referendum.

By Council Members Avella and Palma

This is a resolution calling upon the State Legislature to permit the City of New York to change the City’s Charter to explicitly provide that term limits can be altered only through referendum.

Seeking similar charter revisions as Intro 850, the major difference between the proposals is that 1640 is a resolution requesting permission from Albany to change New York City’s Charter.  A resolution carries no weight of law and would depend upon the State Legislature affirming the bill in a vote in December of January, when the legislature returns to session.

Conversely, Intro 850 is legislation that would not itself amend the City’s Charter, but would rather enact a law to prevent such Charter revisions through City Council legislation (i.e. permitting them only through referendum).
Resolution 1640 is considered a long shot to pass.

Term Limits Op-Ed Pieces

On the New York Times op-ed page last week, billionaire Ronald S. Lauder explained why fear of the global financial crisis, memories of New York City’s near-bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, and faith in Mayor Bloomberg’s fiscal stewardship collectively have moved him to support temporary legislative extension of term limits – which he helped enact in 1993 and reaffirm in 1997.   

Read Mr. Lauder’s essay here; read here a profile of Mr. Lauder in the Times this week, written by Sam Roberts and Eric Konigsberg.  

This week, former New York City deputy mayor Randy M. Mastro argued against Mayor Bloomberg’s term limits proposal as improper and vulnerable to legal challenge.  Mr. Mastor’s key passage:

If the mayor wants to run again, there is a better approach, one that will remove any doubt about the legality and propriety of changing term limits.

The mayor should support the immediate appointment of a charter revision commission that would submit a term limits proposition directly to the voters in a citywide special election that could be held early next year. That would leave plenty of time for him to run for a third term if the voters approved such a change.

Mr. Mastro argues that amending term limits through legislation would:

  1. Arguably run afoul of local law embodied in the city charter (“the city charter expressly provides that it is ‘the public policy of the City of New York to limit to not more than eight consecutive years the time elected officials can serve.’)

  2. By having lawmakers offer themselves another term in office, constitute  a conflict of interest that is impermissible under the city charter (“The charter could not be clearer in barring such self-dealing: ‘No public servant shall use … his or her position as a public servant to obtain any … private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant.’ And any violation of that prohibition exposes the public official to fines and potential criminal sanctions.)

  3. Prompt a possible federal Voting Rights Act review, first by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and then by the federal courts (“Why? Because such a change has the potential to undercut minority representation: there are now more members of minority groups serving on the council than there were before term limits were instituted”

Read the full essay here.

Term Limits Battle: Bloomberg’s $80 Million Re-election Plans, Lauder’s Almost About-Face, Golisano’s Possible Entrance, Working Families Party Organizing Opposition, and 2009 Candidates in Limbo

From David W. Chen and Raymond Hernandez in the Times:

Mayor Plans an $80 Million Campaign

Published: October 9, 2008

Even as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his advisers await a City Council vote on a measure that would allow him to seek a third term, they are mapping out an aggressive re-election strategy that involves spending $80 million or more, according to people involved in the discussions.

At least $20 million of that money would be used to pound away at the man the advisers believe will be his most likely opponent, Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn and Queens, the people involved in the talks said.

The discussions come as resistance builds to the mayor’s efforts to overturn the city’s 1993 term limits law, which, if left unchanged, would force him from office in December 2009 (continue reading the article here).

The Times City Room blog details how Mayor Bloomberg and Ronald Lauder forged a pact on term limits:

Bloomberg and Lauder Strike a Deal

The billionaire who threatened to block Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s path to a third term has backed down.

Citing a “financial emergency,” Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics heir who twice financed referendums setting a limit of two terms for city elected officials, said Wednesday afternoon that he would “reluctantly” support a plan by Mr. Bloomberg to extend the maximum number of terms to three (continue reading here).

And the Times Michael Barbaro describes why civic groups have filed a complaint citing ethical lapses in the Bloomberg-Lauder pact:

Groups See Ethics Violation in Mayor’s Pledge to Lauder

Two civic groups said on Thursday that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg violated the city’s ethics laws when he pledged to put Ronald S. Lauder on a charter revision commission in exchange for his support for the mayor’s third-term effort.

The groups, the New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause, made the charge in a complaint filed with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board…

The civic groups contend that the deal violates a provision of the City Charter, which says that a mayor cannot “use or attempt to use his or her position as a public servant to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant” (finish the article here).

On Thursday, the Times Nicholas Confessore and Michael Barbarbo described the possible entrance of another politically-minded billionaire into the term limits fight:

Third-Term Plan Gains One Billionaire, but May Lose Another

October 9, 2008

Even as the cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder agreed to drop his opposition to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to extend term limits and run for re-election, another politically inclined mogul signaled that he may fight the mayor’s move.
Councilman Bill de Blasio, who has emerged as a leading opponent to the term limits extension, flew to a hastily arranged meeting outside Rochester with Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the Buffalo Sabres and a major political and philanthropic force in western New York.

The two men spoke for two hours, with Mr. de Blasio outlining his concerns that the maneuver planned by Mr. Bloomberg would undo the will of the voters, who have twice approved term limits. Mr. Golisano, who has put term limits and campaign finance reform at the center of his political efforts in New York State, listened and appeared interested in affecting the debate, said Steven Pigeon, an adviser to Mr. Golisano who attended the meeting (continue reading the article here).

NYT reporter Fernanda Santos profiles how the Working Families Party is hitting the streets to build opposition to the Mayor’s plan – not on the issue of term limits per se, but on the act of undoing a popular referendum through a legislative vote:

Fighting Bid to Extend Term Limits, Politician by Politician

October 9, 2008

They are angling for the magic number: 26. That is how many City Council members it would take to defeat a bill introduced on Tuesday, at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s request, to change the city’s term limits law.

On Wednesday, they took to the streets — a band of volunteers and organizers with the Working Families Party, which is spearheading a campaign against the bill.

Clipboards in hand, they approached passers-by and asked, “Do you have a minute for term limits?” and tried to persuade them to sign a petition.

To the party’s members, the issue is not the term limits law itself, but how it should be changed. In their opinion, it ought to be changed the same way it was passed: by referendum.

“Our issue is not about whether the mayor should run for a third term,” one canvasser, Sarah Abernathy, 27, told a man in jeans and workman’s boots. “It’s just really about leaving it up to voters to decide whether there should be a third term.”(Finish the article here).

Finally, the City Room blog explores how a possible extension of term limits is scuttling the plans of citizens who had planned to run for office in 2009:

Candidates Left in Limbo Over Term Limits

For more than a year, Jo Anne Simon, a lawyer in Downtown Brooklyn, has been busy planning her campaign to represent a City Council district that stretches from Park Slope to Williamsburg and Greenpoint. She has started a Web site and has held a number of fund-raising events that took in more than $50,000. But with the current turbulence over the possible extension of the city’s term limit laws, Ms. Simon says she is frustrated and perturbed by the turn of events.

With Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to ask the City Council to extend term limits by another four years, there are dozens of newcomers to the city’s political landscape who, like Ms. Simon, are confused and unclear about what their prospects are. (continue reading here)

Mayor Bloomberg Files Suit to Prevent Indian Smoke Shops from Aiding Black-Market Tobacco Sales

Meanwhile, back on the governance front, the Bloomberg administration last week filed a civil suit against eight smoke shops on the small Poospatuck Indian reservation on eastern Long Island, accusing these shops of contributing to the black market trade in cigarettes by “structuring and concealing bulk sales, assisting in the packing of vans destined for New York City and even making their own bulk deliveries off the reservation.”

Having steeply raised excise taxes on tobacco since entering office in 2001 (in New York City, state and city excise taxes total $4.25 a pack, often pushing the retail price above $9), tobacco taxes are now a sizeable source of revenue for the city.  The Mayor’s office asserts that bootleg cigarette sales are depriving the city and state together of more than $1 billion a year in tax revenue – with losses the city alone totaling enough to pay the annual salaries and benefits of more than 3,000 schoolteachers.

For more on the black market cigarette trade and the Bloomberg administration’s attempt to stop it, read this article by Stephanie Saul in the Times; reproduced below is an excellent graphic from the article.

For the judgment of the Times’ editorial board on how to get Indian smoke shops (which exist on sovereign land) to comply with New York tobacco taxes, see here.

New York City Council for Week of October 12

Council to Hold Hearings on Term Limits Legislation

The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations will convene hearings next week to discuss four legislative proposals on term limits changes.

Two hearings are currently scheduled.

WHERE: Council Chambers, City Hall
WHEN: Thursday, October 16th
TIME: 1:00 pm

WHERE: Committee Room, City Hall
WHEN: Friday, October 17th
TIME: 10:00 am

Zoning & Franchises Tony Avella, Chair
Thursday, October 16, 9:30 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: See Land Use Calendar Available Friday, October 10, 2008, in Room 5 City Hall

Consumer Affairs * Deferred Leroy G. Comrie, Jr., Kendall Stewart, Chair
Thursday, October 16, 10:00 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall

Landmarks, Public Siting & Maritime Uses Jessica S. Lappin, Chair
Thursday, October 16, 11:00 AM
Committee Room – City Hall
Details: See Land Use Calendar Available Friday, October 10, 2008, in Room 5 City Hall

Housing & Buildings Erik Martin Dilan, Chair
Thursday, October 16, 1:00 PM
Committee Room – City Hall
Details: Agenda to be announced

Civil Service & Labor * Deferred Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., Chair
Thursday, October 16, 1:00 PM
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 14th Floor

Waterfronts * Deferred Michael C. Nelson, Chair
Thursday, October 16, 1:00 PM
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 16th Floor

Governmental Operations * Addition Simcha Felder, Chair
Thursday, October 16, 1:00 PM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: Int 845 – By Council Member Felder (by request of the Mayor) – A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to term limits for elected officials. Int 850 – By Council Members Weprin, de Blasio, Gioia and Liu – A Local Law to amend the New York City Charter, in relation to providing that any changes to term limits for elected officers must be submitted for the approval of the electors. Preconsidered Int____ – By Council Members James and de Blasio – A Local Law – To establish a Charter Revision Commission to draft a new or revised City Charter. Res 1640 – By Council Member Avella – Resolution calling upon the State Legislature to adopt legislation amending the State Municipal Home Rule Law (MHRL) to give the City the authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to voter referendum.

Contracts Letitia James, Chair
Friday, October 17, 10:00 AM
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 16th Floor
Details: Oversight – Prevailing Wage Compliance under Executive Order 102

Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Daniel R. Garodnick, Chair
Friday, October 17, 10:00 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: See Land Use Calendar Available Friday, October 10, 2008, in Room 5 City Hall.

Governmental Operations * Addition Simcha Felder, Chair
Friday, October 17, 10:00 AM
Committee Room – City Hall
Details: Int 845 – By Council Member Felder (by request of the Mayor) – A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to term limits for elected officials. Int 850 – By Council Members Weprin, de Blasio, Gioia and Liu – A Local Law to amend the New York City Charter, in relation to providing that any changes to term limits for elected officers must be submitted for the approval of the electors. Preconsidered Int____ – By Council Members James and de Blasio – A Local Law – To establish a Charter Revision Commission to draft a new or revised City Charter. Res 1640 – By Council Member Avella – Resolution calling upon the State Legislature to adopt legislation amending the State Municipal Home Rule Law (MHRL) to give the City the authority to provide in its Charter that any change in the City’s term limits law must be subject to voter referendum.

Technology in Government * Addition Gale A. Brewer, Chair
Friday, October 17, 10:00 AM
Hearing Room – 250 Broadway, 14th Floor
Details: Res 1495 – By Council Members Brewer, Comrie, Jackson, James, Liu, Palma, Seabrook and White Jr. – Resolution supporting the local efforts to acquire the .nyc Top Level Domain and urging The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to approve the City’s application in order to meet the needs of city residents via the Internet.

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