Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to try to reverse the term-limits law he had long supported so he can seek a third term next year and help the city emerge from financial turmoil, a person close to the mayor told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Bloomberg made the decision over the weekend and will announce it Thursday, according to the person, who has been briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hasn't been made. The person said the mayor has been wrestling with the decision for the past couple of months.
The billionaire former CEO will cite the nation's precarious economic situation as the reason that New York needs a tested financial manager to stay and guide the city, the person said.
The mayor, founder of the multibillion-dollar financial data firm Bloomberg LP, is reported to be worth an estimated $20 billion.
News of Bloomberg's decision was first reported by The New York Times.
The move is risky because the mayor would be going against both his own prior support of term limits and polls that show the public supports the voter-approved law.
The individual close to the mayor said Bloomberg's plan is go through the City Council to amend the law to allow a third consecutive term because it is too late to get the issue on this year's ballot. A Times survey of council members last month found that a majority were willing to amend the term limits law.
Chris Kelley, associate director of the government watchdog group Common Cause New York, accused Bloomberg of attempting to subvert the will of the voters.
"If there's a discussion that needs to be had about term limits, the mayor has had years in office during which we could have had a public discussion," Kelley said. "We are now faced with a situation where we are looking at economic crisis and massive turnover at City Hall ... and to make an end run around the voters' choice is just incredibly disappointing."
When Bloomberg vetoed a bill in 2002 that would have extended the terms for some officials, he said the proposed law amounted to changing the rules for personal political gain. In recent months, however, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent hinted that he'd be willing to overturn the measure.
Bloomberg's change of heart comes amid the nation's worst financial emergency since the Great Depression. The turmoil has dealt a serious blow to the city's economy, which relies on heavily on Wall Street profits for its tax base.
The crisis had led at least one major supporter of term limits to support a third term for Bloomberg.
The New York Post reported Tuesday that billionaire cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, who spent millions on the referendum that led to the enactment of the two-term limit in 1993, was willing to make a one-time exception for Bloomberg.
"I've been reading that Mayor Bloomberg might be interested in serving a third term," Lauder told the Post. "Because of the unprecedented times, this is welcome news. To me, Mayor Bloomberg's brilliance in the financial sector, particularly Wall Street, would be invaluable."
Just weeks ago, Lauder's spokesman announced that he would bankroll television commercials arguing that term limits were still needed. Lauder's office and his spokesman didn't immediately return calls from the AP on Tuesday.
Mark Green, the former city public advocate who lost to Bloomberg in 2001, called the mayor's move "an antidemocratic, self-dealing power grab."