Make New York City the 51st State
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 10/21/08
New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg usually gets what he wants and having more money than Canada doesn’t hurt. What I like about him is that he doesn’t seem to mind the money and it doesn’t seem to get in his way, and with approval ratings that sometimes spike at 80% in a very cranky city, most others don’t seem to mind.
But Reuters reports that New York City voters are split on whether Bloomberg should be allowed to run for a third term and 89 percent believe the issue should be decided by a referendum, not the city council.
The Quinnipiac University poll indicated 51 percent of New Yorkers oppose extending the city's eight-year term limit to 12 years, while 45 percent support the move.
We should begin to get acclimated to breaking traditions to find greater relevance and versatility than we have been assigned by history in one-size-fits-all federalism. Much creativity in our economy and culture gets stifled simply because keeping the code that the Great Fathers signed on to in 1776 has become conditioned reflex. If a business or university ran by rules fixed 230 years ago it would be long gone.
The Protestant Ethic is over. Welcome to the participation mystique. Nature brings us forward and the states and regions should adapt their circumstances to meet the challenges and changes in the culture of the times. Bloomberg and his buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger are two of the most innovative politicians in the country. At a time of crisis; at a time of new beginnings, we need to find the best among us to bring us forward and sign on to them the freedom they need to fully manifest their abilities. The last two presidential administrations have not done so.
And RE Bloomberg’s buddy Arnold, it is only situational political sparing which prevents one not native-born from becoming chief. Like term-limits, it is ad hoc legislation designed to keep one specific individual from making progress in a vastly different historical era. World history sometimes shows its greatest leaps forward when a newcomer from out-of-town takes the helm, bringing new attitudes and strengths. That we block ourselves off from such historical awakenings is narrow and provincial.
But right now New York City needs its own awakening. Wall Street is down, the New York Times reads like a Christian Science Monitor for aging yuppies and the Yankees stink. It has been long sinking. Some say it was all over for New York City back in 1964. Much earlier, James Thurber is said to have written on the bathroom ceiling of The New Yorker, “Too late,” addressed to anyone who would look up.
And recently, the news has been nothing but bad. Bloomberg has been a representative figure for the city and his ideas, like taxing cars going into Manhattan and going green on the city’s cab fleet, are good ones, but his best initiatives have been stifled at the state level.
He might brush off an old idea that Norman Mailer and journalist Jimmy Breslin campaigned on when they ran for office in the late 1960s: Make New York City the 51st state. That would end the blockages and turf battles with Albany and make New York City an autonomous vortex of innovation. Making New York City and independent city-state would also give the city the cachet it deserves and the independence it requires for the full expression of its creativity. And it could bring capital back to Wall Street.
For Mailer, running for mayor of New York City was a work of both performance art and Mao theater. Once New York City became the 51st state, he said, he would have moved up to governor.
Likewise, Bloomberg would then be governor of New York City. It would give him the perch to see across the heartland and across the oceans east and west. And it would give New York City the freedom and autonomy a great, creative vortex needs.
New York City has little in common with the rest of the state. New York City should answer direct to the federal government in Washington and under some circumstances it should have the ability to go alone. California under Schwarzenegger and Connecticut under governor Jodi Rell have recently challenged the feds on environmental issues and have determined that under some circumstances they will go their own way. New York City should join them and should lead the way on these initiatives, but is hampered in doing so by Albany.