NEW YORK - (AP) - Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday that he will ask City Council to change New York's term-limits law so he can run for another four years in office to deal with the"unprecedented challenges" brought on by the financial meltdown.
"The question for me has become much less about the theoreticaland much more about the practical. And so to put it in verypractical terms, handling this financial crisis while strengtheningthe essential services such as education and public safety is achallenge I want to take on for the people of New York," Bloombergsaid at a City Hall news conference.
"So if the City Council should vote to amend term limits, Iplan to ask New Yorkers to look at my record of independentleadership and then decide if I've earned another term. As always,it will be up to the people to decide, not me."
The current law limits the mayor to two four-year terms.Bloomberg, 66, was elected two months after Sept. 11 and thencruised to a landslide in 2005 after spending tens of millions ofhis own fortune.
Bloomberg is almost certain to face a legal challenge if hetries to seek a change to the law. Several lawyers and goodgovernment groups said they are mulling legal action to block anychanges without the approval of voters, who have twice voted tosupport the cap.
Bloomberg has already begun lining up support for the move. OnWednesday, the mayor met with council Speaker Christine Quinn -herself a potential mayoral candidate - but no details emergedabout the meeting. Quinn spokeswoman Maria Alvarado said the twoplan to meet again in the coming days.
Gov. David Paterson offered his endorsement of the idea, callingBloomberg "an exceptional leader," although he called the termlimits question "a local issue for the city of New York toresolve."
A group of influential business leaders and powerbrokers,including Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan ChaseChairman James Dimon and Henry Kissinger, took out ads in citynewspapers urging the council to amend the law to allow for morethan two four-year terms.
"In thinking about the challenges ahead beyond the directchallenges of managing the financial crisis, I've asked myself, 'Dowe have more work to do ...?' and the answer is yes, we have moreto do, a lot more to do," Bloomberg said.
Norman Siegel, a well-known civil liberties lawyer, saidWednesday that he has received calls from several people urging himto file a lawsuit to block the move, including one politicalcandidate whose campaign plans would be disrupted by such a move.
"The legal question is, can you undo a public referendum bylegislative fiat?" Siegel said, promising "a hard look" at alegal challenge.
Other lawyers also geared up to take action. "Lawyers all around the city are going over this with afine-toothed comb," said Gene Russianoff, a senior attorney forthe New York Public Interest Research Group.
Veterans of similar battles, however, say Bloomberg's opponentsmight not find much solace in the courts.
State and federal judges in New York have a history of rulingsthat would seem to affirm the council's authority to extend orrepeal term limits without going back to the voters.
A state appeals court ruled in 1961 that Buffalo's city councilcould legally repeal voter-approved term limits without holding anew referendum.
A lower-level appeals court backed New York City's council whenit made minor alterations to the term limits law in 2002 to erase aquirk that would have limited some of its members to no more thansix consecutive years in office, rather than eight.
"This isn't a close case. This is open and shut," said RobertJoffe, an attorney who helped represent the council during that legal battle.
He said courts have repeatedly held that legislative bodies inNew York have a right to repeal old laws in favor of new ones. "Alaw is a law, and it doesn't matter if it was passed by the CityCouncil, or by referendum. They have the same weight," Joffe said.
Raymond Dowd, another attorney involved in the 2002 courtbattle, also saw few opportunities for a successful challenge.
"It sounds to me like they would have a really, really toughtime," he said, although he added that the stakes were so high, anattempt to get the courts to intervene might be worth the long-shotodds.
At the news conference, Bloomberg said that it's "up to theCity Council to change the law ... it's simply giving the public anextra opportunity to pick, and that's good."