The most widely mocked presidential campaign of this cycle may not land Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio in the White House, but at least, in theory, it could put him on the unemployment line. This weekend the New York Post brought up the rather inconvenient fact that Hizzoner has effectively absconded from the city and is spending pretty much all of his time on the campaign trail. So how is he managing to run the most populous city in the nation while he’s out on the road? The answer is that he’s not, which means that he’s not doing his job. And owing to an obscure (never invoked) codicil in the city charter, a small board of elected officials have the ability to remove him from office and replace him.
The poison pill buried in the document’s dense legalese is the “committee on mayoral inability,” a five-member body with the power to declare the mayor “temporarily unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the office.
Comptroller Scott Stringer — who has publicly worried about the mayor’s distraction — is a member, along with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the longest-serving of the city’s five beeps.
The committee would also include two mayoral appointees, Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter and a deputy mayor to be named later, by de Blasio himself.
I’ll confess that I’d never heard of this rule either, but it’s apparently a real thing. The Committee on Mayoral Inability is described in the City Charter under Chapter 1, section (d)(2) and it plays out precisely as described in the article at the Post. It appears to have been primarily designed for situations where the Governor removes the Mayor from office (I didn’t know he could do that either), or for situations where the Mayor is unable to perform his duties due to sickness. But it includes some vague descriptions regarding “other reasons” so it sounds like it applies.
So what happens if they decided to form up the committee and give de Blasio the boot? According to the charter, “the powers and duties of the office of mayor shall devolve upon the public advocate or the comptroller in that order .”
I somehow doubt this is going to happen, but it at least gave the press something to chat about over the weekend. The Post got Rudy Giuliani to weigh in on the plan, but he dismissed the idea of removing de Blasio. Though probably not for the reasons you would expect. Rather than defending Bill, Rudy said, “he doesn’t do anything, anyway. The city runs itself. He won’t be missed.”
Some might argue that the city actually runs better without the Mayor dipping his beak into every issue of the day. But if New York continues to chug along just fine with the boss basically living in Iowa and New Hampshire, we are left to wonder why we bother keeping him around in the first place. If nothing else, this little exercise provides an education in just how different city charters can be. In New York City there are all manner of ways to remove a sitting mayor if the need arises. In Baltimore, unless the mayor is convicted of a crime, you can’t get them out of the office without using dynamite.