Yassky’s integrity terminated

Yassky’s integrity terminated
The Brooklyn Paper photo composite / Sara Wentworth

Nobody came out unsullied in the ugly vote by the City Council last week to overturn the voters’ twice-stated desire for two-term limits in New York City.

Reasonable people can differ on whether a two-term limit, a three-term limit or no term limits is the best course for our democracy — but one thing is clear: Mayor Bloomberg and a majority of the Council subverted the voters’ will in a reprehensible, undemocratic, rushed, back-room manner.

There is no end to the list of villains in this debacle: the mayor himself, for lying earlier in the year when he said he would not tinker with the public’s prior term-limit referendums; Speaker Christine Quinn, for enabling the mayor and giving herself four more years in a leadership role before she runs for the mayor’s job herself; and the 29 members of the Council who voted to erase the two-term limit that was on the books when they ran for their jobs in the first place.

Brooklyn Heights Councilman David Yassky has earned the wrath of his constituents for joining the Gang of 29 that supported the mayor’s power grab — and that anger is deserved.

Yassky, who was planning to run for City Comptroller before buying himself a bonus term in the Council with his tainted term-limit vote, claimed to be so offended by the mayor’s undemocratic move that he put up an amendment to force the 12-year cap to go before the voters this spring.

But when Yassky’s amendment was shot down, he tossed his integrity in a City Hall garbage can and voted with the mayor.

In doing so, he and the other 28 lackeys ignored a few basic facts about their repugnant vote:

• It was inherently self-serving: Most of the members of the Council would have a hard time finding another $112,500-a-year job, but they should not have given in to the temptation of allowing themselves hold onto their cushy posts. Now Yassky can run for his seat virtually unopposed. Isn’t that convenient?

• It was falsely argued: The mayor and Yassky made the argument that the city’s economic downturn will be so traumatic that we need Bloomberg’s steady hand to pilot this sinking ship. Again, reasonable people can differ on whether Billionaire Mike is the man to oversee New York’s response to problems partly caused by his billionaire friends, but there is no doubt that New York City has come through deeper troubles before. Lest we forget, Bloomberg only became boss because then-Mayor Giuliani could not run for a third term despite widespread feeling that the continuity of his leadership was essential after 9-11. It wasn’t true then, and it ain’t true now.

• It was unnecessary right now: If Yassky and others truly believe that a three-term limit is better than two, fine. But such councilmembers could have easily voted against the mayor’s naked power grab and then called for a charter commission to review the issue calmly and soberly rather than in the heat of this manufactured leadership crisis.

Councilmembers Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) say they will sue to block the implementation of the three-term limit. However worthy their suit, they, too, would benefit if term-limited officeholders are tossed out — DeBlasio by getting a much easier path to the borough presidency, and James by becoming one of the most senior members of the council overnight.

That being said, they at least did the right thing on Oct. 23: They voted to uphold the will of the people on term limits.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this editorial under-reported the base salary of a New York City Councilmember. It is, in fact, $112,500, thanks to a pay hike that passed in 2006.