On term limits
A 10/2/08 editorial on term limits:
Like every elected official, Markowitz doesn’t want to leave office. But while other careerist pols are using cagey asides to couch their contempt for the city’s term-limits law, Markowitz is openly, proudly, dismissive of the two voter-approved referenda that created the city’s current two-term limit for members of the Council, the borough presidents, public advocate, comptroller and mayor.
...We believe it is morally wrong for current officeholders to circumvent the clearly stated wishes of their constituents — especially when they would gain a direct personal benefit by doing so.
We might support Markowitz’s call for changing term limits if his power grab were not so blatant; a slight change in the current situation — like a three-term limit, perhaps — would be a reasonable option, but only under one condition: if the proposal was again put before the public instead of made in a classic backroom deal.
Indeed, there is nothing as egregious as a politician who wants to pass a law just in time for the law to apply to himself. Even in Congress, when a salary increase is approved, it doesn’t take effect until after the next election.
So until the pols are willing to take their case to the voters in a popular referendum, term limits are better off left alone.
On trusting elected officials
The Brooklyn Paper in 10/23/08 editorial, warned Distrust but verify, especially regarding AY:
This week’s debate over term limits reminds us anew why it is so important to investigate, review, question and generally be a burr in the saddle of our elected officials and non-public newsmakers. The reason? Put bluntly, they quite often lie (as Mayor Bloomberg did earlier this year when he said he had no intention of seeking a third term).
...Two years ago, we started asking questions about a city financing scheme that allows developers like Bruce Ratner to avoid property taxes — which rise as land value increases — and instead make “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” that are typically much lower than real property taxes. The Internal Revenue Service looked into it and, lo and behold, ruled that such PILOTs do, indeed, scam taxpayers. The Treasury Department this week threw out the use of PILOTs — but exempted Ratner’s Atlantic Yards because it had preliminary government approval in July, 2006.
Preliminary approval? If that’s the case, why did thousands of people line up on three hot summer nights in August of that year to testify against the project? The answer is clear: those public hearings were a sham.
And lest we forget, when the basketball arena at the heart of Atlantic Yards was unveiled in 2003, Ratner promised that it would cost $400 million and be financed privately, a flat-out lie that was enabled by our elected officials, but challenged by this newspaper. Lo and behold, the cost of the arena is now $950 million — and it will be built entirely by public money. Your money.
"[E]ntirely by public money" remains an issue for debate, but let's contrast that with this week's editorial, which claimed:
Concerning the sprawling Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the mayor’s team admitted long ago that it didn’t handle the development properly and has since done a much better job. That improvement deserves praise.