Despite the recent deluge of articles about Mayor Bloomberg and the Council's scheme to extend term limits, one significant consequence of the proposed change has been carelessly overlooked.
City officials won't be the only ones making out on this backroom deal. Our Statewide politicians will see big dividends too.
Why does Governor Paterson favor doing away with term limits? Let's see. Do you think that it could have anything to do with Mayor Bloomberg being the only candidate who could beat him in 2010?
State Senators and Assembly Members across the five boroughs will breathe a sigh of relief the day the Council extends term limits. Why? Just ask longtime incumbent State Senators Serph Maltese and Frank Padavan from Queens. Both of them are locked in tense general election campaigns, because Council Members Joe Addabbo Jr. and Jim Gennaro thought they had to go looking for new jobs now that their time in the Council was up.
Yes, the issue of the Democrats taking control of the Senate is an indisputable catalyst too, but, if this aim were first and foremost for Addabbo and Gennaro, how come they didn't run for these seats in 2006? The Democrats wanted the Senate then too.
For the past couple of years, our Assembly Members and State Senators have secretly feared the same fate as Maltese and Padavan. And don't think this is just a Democrat vs. Republican thing. Our City Council Members, for the most part, are ambitious men and women, for whom retiring into the private sector (read: obscurity) has little charm. Do you not think that there are plenty of Council Members eyeing up their fellow Democrats' seats?
What about Bronx Councilman Miguel Martinez? When Martinez announced his bid to run for Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat's seat this past June, the City Room headline in The Times read "Assembly Primary to Match Friends Turned Rivals". In the article, Jonathan Hicks decribes Martinez and Espaillat's former rapport "as a big brother and little brother relationship — or at the very least political mentor and mentee". What changed? The lust for power.
Strong political friendships routinely disintegrate when they are no longer convenient for one of the parties to maintain. How many other City Council Members have their sights set on a seat currently occupied by a "mentor"? We won't find out until 2013 if term limits are extended.
If they are, expect a number of longtime lovefests to start dissolving around 2011. That will give the Council Member just enough time to forge the track record of indignation necessary to justify his or her challenge of a one-time pal.
Our State Senators and Assembly Members aren't stupid, especially when it comes to calculating how they're going to stay in office. They know that the only challenge that could likely topple their otherwise iron-clad incumbencies would come from someone with the name recognition and donor base of a fellow elected official.
As long as our Citywide officals stay put, so too will our Statewide electeds. You can be sure that everyone in Albany has their eyes (and their influence) firmly focused on City Hall.