It ain’t over until Marty says it’s over.
The controversial term limits extension cleared the decks for a third term for Borough President Markowitz as several leading opponents quickly bowed out despite increasing scrutiny of the Beep’s ethics and overall record.
One day after the City Council’s Oct. 23 vote to extend term limits from eight to 12 years, Markowitz announced that he would take full advantage.
“It was always his dream to serve Brooklyn as borough president, and [he] would be honored to serve Brooklynites for another term if the voters allow him that opportunity,” his spokesman Mark Zustovich told The Brooklyn Paper.
And with those words, Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) and Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York) announced that they would campaign for other positions.
The suddenly uncompetitive race for borough president is a textbook example of the motivations behind having term limits in the first place, good government advocates said. “The argument that extending term limits will in fact increase voter choice in 2009 is a red herring,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “It will result in expected challengers deciding not to run, and will clear the way for Markowitz” to be easily re-elected.
Indeed, DeBlasio, who now has his sights set on Public Advocate, and Barron, who said he will run for something else, said they could not go toe-to-toe with the popular incumbent even if it meant allowing an uncontested campaign for Markowitz.
“Marty Markowitz is popular throughout the borough … and the people will want him back,” said DeBlasio, who had been one of the leading voices against extending term limits.
Barron was far more critical, yet said it would be tough to dethrone Markowitz, who surprised many people with his 2001 win as a dark horse state Senator from Flatbush.
“Marty Markowitz can be beaten if someone had the resources,” Barron told The Brooklyn Paper. “He’s a stamp of approval for any rich developer that comes in.”
But rubber-stamping projects like Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards hasn’t hurt Markowitz’s high approval ratings or undercut his war chest, which holds $930,000 — far more than DeBlasio’s $608,000 and Barron’s $1,200.
Yet Barron persisted.
“He’s a booster. Aside from the concerts he’s given and the promotions of Junior’s cheesecakes and Nathan’s franks, he hasn’t done too much.”
Barron’s attack follows revelations last month that in 2005, Markowitz allocated public money to his own charity, Best of Brooklyn, in several no-bid contracts that are each exactly $1 less than the amount that triggers an automatic city audit — a clear indication that the borough president was trying to avoid city scrutiny. It was also reported that some Borough Hall staffers were getting paid for doing work for Markowitz’s charity at the same time they were on the city clock.
That report was followed by a discovery by The Brooklyn Paper that Ratner, his company and his colleagues continue to write fat checks to the Best of Brooklyn charity, which sends children to summer camp, and promotes tourism to Brooklyn, special events like Dine In Brooklyn, as well as the two summer concert series he hosts in Asser Levy Park in Coney Island.
Since 2003, at least $680,000 has poured into those groups from Forest City Ratner, an executive and a subsidiary.
Markowitz, talking specifically about his Best of Brooklyn group, told the Brooklyn Paper at the time that he “openly and vigorously advocate[s] for funding from public and private sources to make its programs possible.”