NEW YORK — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has decided to try to reverse the term-limits law he has long supported so he can seek a third term next year and help the city emerge from financial turmoil, a person close to the mayor said Tuesday.
Bloomberg made the decision over the weekend and will announce it Thursday, according to the person, who has been briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not been made. The person said the mayor has been wrestling with the decision for the last couple of months.
The billionaire former CEO will cite the nation's precarious economic situation as the reason that New York needs a tested financial manager to guide the city, the person said.
The mayor, founder of the multibillion-dollar financial data firm Bloomberg LP, is reported to be worth an estimated $20 billion.
News of Bloomberg's decision was first reported by the New York Times.
The move is risky because the mayor would be going against both his own prior support of term limits and polls that show the public supports the voter-approved law.
The individual close to the mayor said Bloomberg's plan is to get the City Council to amend the law to allow a third consecutive term because it is too late to get the issue on this year's ballot.
When Bloomberg vetoed a bill in 2002 that would have extended the terms for some officials, he said the proposed law amounted to changing the rules for personal political gain. In recent months, however, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent hinted that he'd be willing to overturn the measure.
Chris Kelley, associate director of the government watchdog group Common Cause New York, accused Bloomberg of attempting to subvert the will of the voters.
"If there's a discussion that needs to be had about term limits, the mayor has had years in office during which we could have had a public discussion," Kelley said.
"We are now faced with a situation where we are looking at economic crisis and massive turnover at City Hall . . . and to make an end run around the voters' choice is just incredibly disappointing."
Mark Green, the former city public advocate who lost to Bloomberg in 2001, called the mayor's move "an antidemocratic, self-dealing power grab."
Green, now president at Air America Media, said civic and labor officials had discussed mounting a pro-term-limits campaign should Bloomberg seek to overturn the law.
"He's picked a fight," Green said. "And now he'll get one."
Not even 9/11 swayed the support many New Yorkers have for the term-limits law.
With his second term nearly over, then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani suggested overturning the term-limits law but ultimately decided against it. Even in the wake of the attacks, with Giuliani's approval rating at 90%, one poll found that 55% of New York City voters opposed repealing term limits.
Any change in the law would send shock waves through the ranks of the city's politicians, many of whom have been campaigning for different jobs, including Bloomberg's.
The law currently on the books will force the mayor from office at the end of next year, as well as the city comptroller, two-thirds of the City Council and the city's public advocate.
Bloomberg spent about $155 million on his first two campaigns, winning reelection in 2005 by 20 percentage points.