Now, in an eerie throwback to those days, our Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ignored the people's will and rammed through a new law in an atttempt to keep him in City Hall for another term.
It's a classic case of brute political force carrying the day. Democracy be damned, Bloomberg must have his way. He's the boss. After much arm twisting and some cajoling, the City Council has surrendered to his will, although by an unusually close vote of 29 to 22.
The irony is that Bloomberg himself once backed term limits. He has gone back on his once strongly held conviction -- making an exception for himself.
Twice the people of New York voted for term limits. The Quinnipiac Poll found this week that 89 percent of New Yorkers still thought that only a referendum could change that measure.
“The real issue for many New Yorkers will be Mr. Bloomberg and his credibility, now that he has turned his back so thoroughly on the expressed will of the people and on his own past statements,” Clyde Haberman noted in the New York Times.
The billionaire mayor is ready to spend $100 million bucks of his own money to run again in 2009 and defeat would be usurpers. The sky's the limit for Bloomberg when it comes to his own ambition.
There are many New Yorkers who feel he has done a good job in many respects as mayor. But fewer New Yorkers, we suspect, appreciate hubris or people who are stuck on themselves. We doubt there are many who think he is indispensable, especially after this brutal imposition of his will. He claims that the world's fiscal crisis makes it imperative that he stays in command of New York City. That is chutzpah, plain and simple.
Franklin Roosevelt, the great president who led us in World War II, won four terms but the American people ultimately decided that this was too much and a two-term amendment was enacted. In ancient Athens, the revered Aristides was voted out of office because the people felt he'd been in power too long. The man who imposed his will on the city council obviously doesn't like referendums if they don't go his way.
“The people will long remember what we have done here today and the people will be unforgiving,” Councilman Bill de Blasio, an opponent of the mayor, said after the vote.
Council speaker Christine Quinn, who rounded up her members like sheep for the mayor, said: "This is a difficult vote in very difficult times."
And the mayor himself, asked how he felt after hearing how the council had voted, said : "I had a smile on my face. And a little bit of a tinge of, 'oh my goodness! I hope I know what I'm doing here. We're going to have some very tough times.' "
The City Council's action is being challenged in the courts and two avowed candidates for mayor, Congressman Anthony Weiner and city controller Bill Thompson, insist they're still determined to run for mayor.
So Mike Bloomberg's bid for a third term could still be frustrated by, of all things, a vote of the people!