Brooklyn Heights Betrayal

Yesterday, 29 members of the New York City Council paid tribute to the glorious days of selfishness and corruption under Tammany Hall. By now, most people are aware of the decision to extend Term Limits for an additional term to all city elected officials. The good residents of Brooklyn Heights should be proud that our city elected official, councilmember David Yassky, played a critical role in the assault on the democratic process and the will of the people. The New York Times wrote a good piece about the Yassky involvement in this historic event.

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  • DB

    to play devil’s advocate, why are referrenda preferable to city council votes? we were founded as a republic, not a democracy. the term limit movement is the result of those precise short-term passions being enacted into law that representative government is designed to avoid.

    even if you think that a Ron Lauder-financed referrendum is the way to go, T.K. Small’s post, not for the first time, has more of a strident and moralistic tone of umbridge than is warranted. (And somewhat much ado about nothing: Wouldn’t this district just elect another Yassky-like technocrat, probably with ties to Schumer like our next state senator. Who cares if it’s Yassky or his exact double?)

  • my2cents

    I can’t believe I am saying this but maybe Palin’s comment was right after all. Maybe New York City isn’t a pro-america part of the country. Even Hugo Chavez allowed his people to vote directly on whether he should be allowed to lead for life. Shameful. Maybe Yassky’s “term limit” will come at his next election thanks to this power grab.

  • TK Small

    Oh well, one person’s “strident and moralistic” is another’s “principled and accurate.”

  • stefan

    Well, good heavens, it is no breaking news that New Yorkers are not pro-American. At least as far back as the eighteenth century, New Yorkers have identified more with the sophisticated elites of Europe than the dirty farmers of the hinterland. NY was adamantly opposed to the revolution, this was Torry-ville. More recently, when the French were stabbing Colin Powell in the back at the UN all of my friends wanted to be part of France (I don’t think the feeling was reciprocative) New Yorkers are snotty, they think they are better because they don’t have to drive to the mall (instead hauling bags on the subway while people jab them with their elbows and asses).
    This is a funny city, unique in the USA, we were rooting for the Soviets all during the Cold War (especially in Brooklyn Heights) so….yes…and no…we like being Americans but like Paul Krugman, we just wish Americans were more like the Swedes, or the French, the Swiss, the Japanese…..anybody but us, because, you know, we’re just vulgar Americaines.

  • heightsman

    go yassky! standing up for your beliefs. we elected you to lead, not take polls. term limits are lame. and now those of us who would like to choose bloomberg again, can.

  • my2cents

    Wow Stefan. Tell us what you really think! I was just saying that making decisions on term limits is something that the people should decide directly, even in a republic. Otherwise it is the fox guarding the henhouse. People giving themselves more terms seems anti-democratic in my opinion, unless this only took effect after their current term expired. I am glad I can vote for bloomberg again. But I am sad that all those dolts losers in the city council will ride his custom tailored coattails for yet another term before being put out to pasture. Stefan, I don’t want Americans to be like anyone else but Americans, and this vote was not very true to American ideals. Europeans are no more sophisticated than we are, honestly. And i have spent a lot of time there. Europe has plenty of rednecks, only they are called soccer fans. We just have an inferiority complex because they have been around longer. They are ahead of us in some respects, and far behind us in others.

  • Monty

    I think stefan may be’s first official serial troll. Good commenters of this blog: do not feed the trolls!

    Incidentally, I was initially pretty put off by Bloomberg seeking to abolish term limits, but really very few offices in the land have term limits. They were only enacted here to get rid of Ed Koch. I say, let him run again. I think Bloomie has done a great job, but it’s Anthony Weiner’s turn.

  • DB

    TK Small — there are degrees. Your approach doesn’t recognize any possibility that reasonable people might disagree about this issue, Yassky’s particular attempt at a middle ground, or, you know, not actually give a rip about term limits (this not being the Contract For America era), or again might not want to read invective in the place of rational discussion (on a supposedly apolitical blog.)

    Stefan — insofar as America was born in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, I’d say to the extent the rest of the country doesn’t share our cosmopolitan, pro-European values, they’re the problem. Let those states take less in taxes than they pay — unlike the California, Chicago, and the Eastern Seaboard — and we can see how the anti-elitism conversation goes. W.J. Bryant’s cross-of-gold speech left out the part about agribusiness subsidies financed by taxes on the service sector.

  • AEB

    New Yorkers not pro-American? Or not in lockstep with the xenophobic authoritarians whose reflexive bellicosity has helped to bring our nation to its knees?

    Do not confuse a worldview that places fairness over (unquestioning) loyalty for a lack of allegiance to the group.

    Do not even question an other’s patriotism. That’s a private matter, like one’s religious beliefs–or lack of them–that’s no body’s business but one’s own.


  • T.K. Small

    DB – I would definitely agree that there are degrees of perspective. From my point of view, what I am concerned about is the credibility of the institution itself and how this vote compromises the public’s perception of the body. New York City has not had a particularly positive legislative history. Until relatively recently, the City Council had practically no power or authority. Gradually the City Council is being accepted as a balance against the Mayor. However, this incident tends to undermine any progress.

    In more conversations than I could possibly keep track of, everyday people make disparaging remarks about politicians and how they behave. Almost universally politicians are viewed with contempt, suspicion or (perhaps most dangerously) with indifference. Such a sentiment does not serve anybody very well. Perhaps this is naïve, but I think that people actually want to have respect for their elected officials.

    On a personal note, I was never a big fan of term limits and, as I have said in another message thread, I probably would have voted affirmatively for an extension through the referendum process. Two four-year terms is simply not enough time to get acquainted. As a friend likes to say “It takes them six years to find the bathroom!”

    In trying to find the exact number of people that voted for term limits and 1993 and 1996, I came across two articles which were informative.


    When I find the actual number I will put that up as well. Hopefully these comments were not too “strident or moralistic”.

  • Eric

    Since the Mayor took office;

    – Crime has been cut to a 40-year low;
    – Graduation rates have climbed 20 percent;
    – Record budget deficits were turned into record surpluses;
    – Unemployment dropped to all-time lows;
    – 165,000 units of affordable housing are being built or preserved – the largest such program undertaken by any city, ever;
    – Lower Manhattan has been transformed from a 9 to 5 business district into a vibrant 24-7 community;
    – Smoking rates among teens have been cut by more than half;
    – New York’s public hospitals have never been healthier or higher rated.

    Yes, I copy and pasted those from different places, but, assuming they’re all correct, why would we want a party politician who is bound to a political party machine, rather then an independent, working for free, who is bound to no party and does not need power? He clearly took NYC after 9/11 and improved the city on all fronts. Yes, he failed in some of his projects, but overall, I doubt the likes of Anthony Weiner, Mark Green, or any other NYC politician could match up to the Mayor’s accomplishments. And ultimately, if the voters don’t want him, they don’t have to elect him!

  • No One Of Consequence

    Remember how everybody wanted to Rudy to stay on after 9/11?
    No one had a problem with at least suspending term limits then.
    Except Rudy, who admirably declined.

  • my2cents

    Eric I don’t disagree with what you say at all, but I think that you can put a lot of the positive growth the city has experienced under Bloomberg down to the general amount of wealth (and tax revenue) generated under the fat wall street years of the past decade (after we recovered from 9/11). This is somethign that Bloomberg has no control over at all, but it makes him look good. Now that things have hit a downturn we will have to see whether Bloomberg can keep new York from sliding to an abyss of crime and decay with reduced tax revenues and a slower growth rate. Let’s pray he succeeds. I’ll be voting for his 3rd term, but I have to say that this city council vote is a slippery slope.

  • russell dean

    i certainly look forward to the next opportunity to vote this asswipe out of office. duly noted!

  • T.K. Small

    Russell, Just for clarification, who are you referring to?

  • Andrew Porter

    Gee, No One of Consequence, wasn’t it Rudy himself who suggested he stay on? And wasn’t it Term Limits which said he couldn’t? I believe Rudy also wanted to eliminate the actual voting in Nov. 01. Glad we are a government of laws, not men.

    All that said, I voted against term limits, but we go by majority vote, so that’s that. But term limits for other offices — such as Manhattan or Brooklyn DA — would certainly redefine the political landscape.

  • hoppy

    Wait a minute……

    Shouldn’t the title of this post have read something like “Yassky betrayskys Brooklyn Heightsky”?

  • T.K. Small


  • hoppy

    Ohh. Sorry TK

    Now I see it was your post and not Homer’s. Nevermind.

  • T.K. Small

    No problemsky.

  • Yassky Speaks

    From an email blast I just received from Councilman Yassky:

    Dear friends:
    I am sure you know by now that the City Council voted last week to approve Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to lengthen the term limit for City officeholders from eight years to 12 years.

    I want you to know that after a great deal of thought, I chose to support the Mayor’s proposal. This was the most difficult decision I have faced in the City Council – more than congestion pricing, the garbage plan, or the post-9/11 tax increase – and I want to explain why I believe it was the right choice.

    Like many people, my initial reaction to the Mayor’s proposal was outrage. While I have always held that the eight-year term limit was bad policy, it was a policy put in place by referendum and the fairest way to change it was by a subsequent referendum. I was saddened by the Mayor’s eagerness to bypass the voters, and I strongly disagreed with his assertion that a referendum was not feasible. Most important, I knew that a Council vote to change term limits would confirm many people’s most cynical suspicions about politics and politicians.

    Following the Mayor’s announcement, I advocated both publicly and privately, to the Mayor, the Speaker and my colleagues in the Council, that we should put the term limits question before the voters. I argued to the Mayor directly that he was making a mistake, and that he and the Council could not afford to undermine our moral legitimacy at precisely the time when we will be asking New Yorkers to sacrifice for the greater good.

    As the vote neared, it became increasingly clear to me that the Mayor would not relent, and I focused intently on the choice before me. I had dozens – probably hundreds – of conversations with friends and constituents, and heard very strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Many people were appalled that the Council would even consider overturning a referendum, and many – I was surprised by how many – said simply: “I want to keep Mayor Bloomberg.”
    These conversations had a deep impact on my thinking. While I have worked well with the Mayor and I hold his Administration in high regard, I certainly don’t believe he is the only person capable of leading the City over the coming years. But I do know that we are in a period of extraordinary challenge, and that voters may well value stability and experience in the City government. I became convinced that the right choice at this point in time was to leave open for voters the option of choosing to continue the Bloomberg Administration next November.

    Even so, I pressed the referendum argument to the very end. Over the Mayor’s objections, I introduced an amendment to the term limits bill that would have put the issue before the voters in a special election early next year. Many of my colleagues supported the amendment, and it was vigorously debated on the floor – but it lost narrowly. That left the stark choice: As much as I was loath to override the expressed will of the voters, I was unwilling to leave in place a term limits policy which I believe is bad in general and especially at this time.

    Finally, I know that some on the other side of this debate have accused Council Members of acting out of self-interest in voting to change term limits. For my part, I can say unequivocally that I saw no personal benefit in the Mayor’s proposal. As you know, I have been planning to run for City Comptroller next year, and have felt confident about my prospects for success. That campaign may now be foreclosed, as the current Comptroller is eligible to run for reelection.

    I knew that many supporters would disagree with this vote. In making my final decision, one particular conversation stuck with me. In the supermarket, a few days before the vote, an older man approached me, told me he had voted for me, and told me he didn’t like the term limits extension. But then he said: “Whatever you do, I trust you to do the right thing.” I do believe that my constituents want me to look diligently at the issues before me and follow my best judgment about what is right for our City and for our community.

    As difficult as this vote was, I know that still more wrenching choices lie ahead: closing hospitals versus fewer teachers, raising taxes versus cutting cops. On all of these issues, as with the term limits vote, I will take my responsibilities as a City Council Member with the utmost seriousness, and will work as hard as I possibly can to serve in the best interests of the people I represent.


    David Yassky
    Council Member, 33rd District

  • TK Small

    This communication also came through regarding recent political events.

    Brooklyn Council Candidate Ken Diamondstone’s Statement on David Yassky’s “Yes” Vote on a Legislative Change to Term Limits


    On October 23rd, David Yassky finally revealed what many who live in the 33rd Council District suspected all along. By voting “yes” on a legislative change to the term limits law, Yassky has once again demonstrated that while he plays at being a progressive working for the people, the real reason he is in office is to serve his own self-interest.

    These past few weeks have been the most disgraceful chapter in Yassky’s seven years in office. His alleged indecision on extending term limits made it clear that David Yassky lacks both courage and conviction. He didn’t have the guts to stand before the residents of the 33rd Council District to admit his plan to sell them out, so he could treat himself to four more years of the same at City Hall.

    But now the whole City knows how Yassky stands. It’s the same way he stood on Atlantic Yards, where he spent years avoiding taking a position, until he finally figured out which side best suited his self-interest. It’s the same way he hid on the sidelines about the rezoning of the Brooklyn Law School site. It’s the same way he now stands on luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

    Yassky’s vote to extend term limits – notably, the 26th and deciding vote on the legislation – proves that the amendment he put forth calling for a public referendum was nothing more than a cynical face-saving gesture worked out as a backroom deal.

    Yassky’s real intention was always to serve another four years in office. By doing an end run around two referenda which affirmed the people’s strong stance on limiting the City’s elected official to two terms, Yassky clearly demonstrated that he believes his own interests trump the voice of the voters.

    Once again the people have been shortchanged by David Yassky, a politician who constantly maneuvers among special interests, developers, and powerbrokers, promoting his own personal ambition by buying into theirs.

  • Tim N.


    I like your posts, friend, most of the time, but this time you could not be more wrong.

    Guiliani, the 9/11 Whore, devised the plan to stay in office and then went to the leading candidates and threatened them with political blackmail (i.e. whether or not he would campaign against them) if they would not go along. Green and to a lesser extent Ferrer stood up to him.

    But Mayor Bling just rolled right along with it.

    As for our beloved Mayor, well, I guess he should stay in office, since there are one or two interesting buildings still standing in the city that he hasn’t rezoned out of existence. And I’ve still got one or two bad habits that he hasn’t legislated out of existence (not that I’ve stopped, mind you…).

    And as a parent of a child in the city sysytem since ’02, I can tell you his education “reforms” have been highly overrated. Most parents will tell you Klein has been an unmitigated disaster. But their changes do look good on a balance sheet, so those who don’t want to think too hard about educational reform can sleep better and won’t have to push their brain too hard.

    Kinda like the mayor himself.

  • No One Of Consequence

    @Tim N. Thanks, that’s not how I remember it, but that doesn’t mean much.
    The view through my lens was that “people” wanted Rudy to stay on as mayor because of the way he handled the 9/11 situation and that he didn’t because to make exceptions to law and our democratic process because of terrorist actions was giving them a win of sorts.