Oral Arguments heard on Term Limits and the “naked ambition” of Mayor Bloomberg and 29 City Council Members yesterday in downtown Brooklyn

Oral arguments around the Term Limits lawsuit were conducted at the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn yesterday afternoon. Plaintiffs, including NY City Council Members Bill de Blasio, Letitia James, Charles Barron, as well as voters and third party candidates, argue that the City Council’s overturning of two voter referendums violates the First Amendment and due process protocol. Randy Mastro argued the case for the plaintiffs and did a compelling job, at one point referring to Mayor Bloomberg and the 29 City Council members who enacted our CEO Mayor’s bidding as “scoundrels.” Stephen Kitzinger, lead attorney for the city, was a little less compelling but seemed very confident in his arguments. Judge Charles P. Siftin (U.S. District Court) seemed confused as to how he would make the decision of whether the City Council had the right to overturn voted-in term limits, the effect ultimately being that they gave themselves and the Mayor an almost guaranteed third term. The judge stated: “It is difficult to convert [the arguments] into a common denominator.”

For NY1’s clip and story, go here.

Court Hearing Challenging NY City Council Term Limits Vote; Opening Arguments Begin Monday, Jan. 5th in Brooklyn

So, do you remember that lawsuit that NY City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio, and Charles Barron, as well as Comptroller William Thompson, filed back in November challenging the City Council overturning of voted-in term limits on October 23rd? Well, interestingly enough, opening arguments begin tomorrow, Monday, January 5th at the United States District Federal Courthouse in downtown Brooklyn between lawyers for the plaintiffs and the city.

Mayor Bloomberg, City of New York, the City Council, and Speaker Christine Quinn, among others, are listed as defendants in the suit. You can download a PDF of the suit and read the Times’ original story from November at the paper’s web site.

The suit is being litigated by Randy Mastro, formerly a deputy mayor in the Giuliani Administration, and Norman Siegel, well known as an advocate for free speech who is also running for public advocate.

From the complaint:

Allowing a self-interested mayor and City Council to dismiss the results of two recent referenda undermines the integrity of the voting process, effectively nullifies the constitutionally-protected right to vote, and perniciously chills political speech by sending the unavoidable message that the democratic exercises of initiatives and referenda can be disregarded by public officials.”

From my post about the suit when first filed:

One of Mayor Bloomberg main arguments is, that if people don’t want him as Mayor for a third term, they can just vote him out. However, the lawsuit highlights how unlikely that is. For City Council Members, the complaint states: “in the past decade, only 2 of 107 incumbent council members lost a re-election bid.” Couple that statistic with our billionaire mayor’s intention to spend $80-$100 MILLION of his personal fortune (which, by the way, quadrupled while he has been Mayor) on his campaign and it’s not really a fair fight.

Details if you’d like to attend (it should be interesting):

Monday, January 5th, 4:30 p.m.

Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Downtown Brooklyn

Trains: 2, 3 to Borough Hall and Clark Street; 4, 5, M, R to Court Street/Borough Hall; A,C,F to Jay Street/Borough Hall; in addition, many Brooklyn buses go to Borough Hall (check MTA website).

Further Update from City Hall On Term Limits Vote

5:30 p.m. — You’ve most likely heard by now that today the NY City Council passed Mayor Bloomberg’s bill to buy himself a third term. Of course, there were many courageous City Council Members who voted against this. The vote was 29 for, 22 against. I think most of us understand the tremendous pressure these Council Members were under from our billionaire Mayor — who has shown his true colors. The afternoon was at times heartening, at times mind numbing. It felt like a historic moment in our city’s history to witness; it was certainly an educational one. You can find good coverage at the New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, NY1, among others. Council Member Charles Barron (Brooklyn) said mid-way — before the vote was finalized but recognizing the Mayor would most likely prevail — “Even tho’ the Mayor will win today, he is the big loser. His legacy will be forever tainted.” As Letitia James (Brooklyn), who spoke so eloquently, said, “This is a game changing moment.”

And indeed I believe it is. Stay tuned.

New York Times is live blogging from the term limits hearing… Also NY1 is carrying hearing live.

New York Times is live blogging from the term limits hearing today at City Hall. It’s well done and somewhat entertaining. Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg got 50 of his supporters in there early and it’s unclear if they were paid to attend.

Council Member Charles Barron took on the Mayor’s reputation (at last someone did):

“It was under Mayor Bloomberg — under his watch, that Wall Street collapsed,” Mr. Barron continued, adding, “If he’s so sharp, a big-time businessman, why didn’t he foresee this?” he asked of the crisis. “Not only did he not foresee it, what he did was come in and cut this budget. He’s closed down seniors’ centers and youth centers. He robbed the poor and gave to the rich. And you’re going to push Bloomberg on us.”

You can read up-to-the-minute information here.

They will be signing people up to speak until 8 p.m. tonite (but will go later than that if necessary) and it starts again at 10 a.m. tomorrow. (Getting there earlier before the Bloomberg “supporters” arrive is probably a good idea.) If you’ve never testified before the City Council, it can be a little daunting but it’s such a magnificent building and sort of fun to do.

Updated: NY1 is carrying the hearings live til 7 p.m. !  I just discovered this.