On Thursday morning, Mike Bloomberg will make official what he’s been plotting for months: He’ll push to tear up term limits and run for a third term as mayor. The ongoing financial-industry meltdown has proven fortuitous for Bloomberg as a candidate — his stock as a steady-handed, business-world-trained steward of the city has never been higher. But the way he’s going about making this happen, while politically crafty in the short run, reeks of the kind of insider politics that the mayor has always claimed to abhor. Well, at least as long as he wasn’t one of the political insiders.
Instead of putting the idea of a term-limit waiver to the test of a public referendum this fall, Bloomberg will endorse City Council legislation to change the rules. He’s likely to win: The deal will no doubt include job extensions for City Council members, too. Bloomberg and his strategists know better than anyone that money is still power in this city, but by lining up Rupert Murdoch, Mort Zuckerman, and Ron Lauder as key backers, Bloomberg comes across as running for chief oligarch, instead of for another four years as mayor.
For the sake of the city, let’s hope Bloomberg 3 is a huge success. But I can’t help thinking about what Bloomberg told me on September 12, while talking with Ed Koch, a mayoral ghost of grim times past. “It is easier to govern in difficult times than in flush times,” Bloomberg said. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt the next day. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.