Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg may not have Ron Lauder's backing after all on term limits

Monday, October 6th 2008, 11:06 PM

Mayor Bloomberg's plan to rule for another term has stumbled into trouble in the City Council - and with a powerful ally he thought was on his side.

Although the Council had been expected to back the mayor's bill extending term limits for all city officials, several members said a closed-door meeting Monday revealed a growing rift.

Another problem surfaced when billionaire cosmetics mogul Ronald Lauder, a term limits foe who supports giving the mayor four more years, suggested he would oppose the bill unless it's just a one-time waiver for Bloomberg.

"The term limits debate is growing more difficult and divisive by the day," Lauder said in a statement. "At this point, I see no benefit in having anything more to say until I have had the opportunity to talk with Mayor Bloomberg personally, hopefully when he returns Wednesday."

Lauder, whose fortune funded the two referendums that created and upheld term limits in the 1990s, wants Bloomberg to stay in office a third term to guide the city through the fiscal crisis.

In London yesterday, Bloomberg chalked the confusion up to a "misunderstanding," but he didn't elaborate. Spokesmen for both men said Sunday the two had brokered a deal.

The mayor's bill is expected to land in the Council Tuesday. No hearing has been scheduled.

There are two blocs of Council members opposed to changing the law. One group wants to let voters decide in the spring, but the other is made up of 13 first-term members who would not benefit from a one-shot bill for Bloomberg and the term-limited members.

"It's very divided," said City Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn) after the meeting in City Hall. "I don't think it's nasty. I don't think it's chaotic. I think it's charged."

Bloomberg says a referendum in a special election would be illegal because too few people would vote. Some critics and legal experts disagreed.

"That a body of 51 people is more representative than an election of the populace is, on its face, ridiculous," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens), a mayoral hopeful who might now have to run against a powerful incumbent.

Bloomberg told Lauder on Friday that if he supports the permanent change, the mayor will appoint him to a charter revision commission, which would put the issue to the voters in 2010.

That raises the prospect of all but one or two incumbent Council members falling under term limits in 2013.

Despite the noise, supporters are confident that the bill will still pass.

"In my opinion, the majority of the people will be voting to extend it to three terms," said Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan).

eeinhorn@nydailynews.com

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