Politics, voters, and the Yankees

October 12, 1998

The New York Times said in an editorial last week:

So here we are again, edging toward Election Day with no firm idea of what the ballots in New York City will look like. In particular, the referendum section, often tucked down at the lumbago level of the ballot, is still very much in doubt. The cause for this confusion is a highly vocal and political battle between Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Vallone, who is running for governor, wants an item on the ballot that asks voters whether public funds can be used to move Yankee Stadium from the Bronx to Manhattan. The mayor, objecting mightily to such a limitation on his powers, quickly established a contrived Charter Revision Commission to find its own referendum that would automatically bounce Vallone's off the ballot. So Vallone and his City Council went to court -- in the Bronx, of course -- and got a hometown judge to rule for the Vallone referendum.

State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon, who describes Yankee Stadium as "the tabernacle of sport," ruled that the mayor's commission did not make a comprehensive review of the charter before devising its "slapdash" referendum on campaign reform. The mayor retorted that "when you present a political question to a judge who is the product of the Democratic machine, you get a Democratic answer, not an honest answer to the question." The city immediately appealed, and was granted a stay.

The best outcome would be if a higher legal authority found a way to keep both referendums off the ballot.

The Vallone effort could harden the negotiating process on Yankee Stadium and complicate the task of keeping the team in New York City. The mayor's referendum is, in many ways, even worse. The mayor used a legitimate process for revising the city's constitution as a crude political tool. His referendum threatens to disrupt one of the best campaign finance systems in the country. These two referendums may be clever political gamesmanship, but they are a disservice to New York City voters.

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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