The debate over term limits on last night’s Inside City Hall got so contentious that the guests–Esther Fuchs, Gene Russianoff and Bill de Blasio–had to make a public display of shaking hands at the end.
Fuchs, a former Bloomberg adviser and now a professor at Columbia University, emerged as a ferocious, unapologetic proponent of the mayor’s plan. She abandoned Bloomberg’s main talking point–that abolishing term limits to let him run again simply offers voters more choice–and rooted her argument in the City Council’s authority to write the laws of the city. Nor did she seem to think the issue needs to go before voters in a referendum, which opponents of Bloomberg’s plan are pushing for.
“What’s so sacrosanct about referendums? I don’t understand the point,” she said.
“We can look at how many examples of direct democracy screw up the public interest,” Fuchs went on, arguing that civil right laws would have initially failed in a referendum.
Also on the show was Gene Russianoff of NYPIRG, who said Bloomberg wants to change the law not, as he says, because of the financial crisis, but as part of an “orchestrated” plan.
“What you’re saying is irrelevant,” Fuchs told Russianoff.
When City Councilman Bill de Blasio tried arguing Russianoff’s point, Fuchs cut him off. “It would that the whole world was so smart to create the conspiracy theories that you just spun out of here. You know, it’s so ridiculous.”
De Blasio noted that Bloomberg actively courted the support of newspaper publishers, instead of their editorial boards.
“What’s wrong with that, to talk to people?” she said, adding, “You wish you could go to publishers, please!”
Fuchs later revisited that point.
“And the fact that the mayor spoke to opinion-makers in the city, what is wrong with that? You would say he was stupid if he didn’t do that.”