(Updates with vote scheduled for Thursday)
By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The New York City Council is due to vote on Thursday on a move to allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term despite a poll showing that 89 percent of voters say a referendum should decide the issue.
New Yorkers voted in 1993 and 1996 to limit the mayor and other city officials to two four-year terms and the Quinnipiac University poll on Tuesday found they were leaning the same way with 51 percent for and 45 percent against a three-term limit.
A similar question asked in an Oct. 3 poll — conducted before Bloomberg announced he would seek an extension — found 54 percent supported extending term limits and 42 percent opposed it.
Bloomberg said he would not seek a voter referendum. “I don’t think the City needs another campaign,” he told reporters. “It’s going to be tough enough to get us through this,” he said, referring to the Wall Street crisis.
A former Wall Street trader and self-made billionaire who was elected mayor in 2001 and again in 2005, Bloomberg has said his financial experience would be invaluable as the city braces for lean times.
“Opponents of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to extend term limits are winning — narrowly — the battle for the hearts and mind of New Yorkers,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“They love Mayor Mike and two weeks ago they were ready to give him a third term, in a hypothetical situation. But now that it’s real and other voices are being heard, voters are having second thoughts,” Carroll said.
The Quinnipiac poll found that 75 percent of voters approve of the job performance of Bloomberg, who built his fortune on Wall Street before setting up the news and information company that bears his name. He wants a third term to help guide the city through tough financial times and the poll showed 59 percent would “definitely” or “probably” vote for him.
Bloomberg has argued that it is too late for a referendum before the November 2009 mayoral election and he has instead put the plan to the City Council, where it needs a simple majority to pass.
Of the 51 council members, 35 stand to lose their jobs next year due to term limits. Bloomberg included council members in his proposal, a move that helps assure support.
Citizens Union, a lobby group, wants a voter referendum to extend term limits and has asked for a “time out.”
The group said all sides should “see if we can collectively find the common ground to work together to put this important question to the voters in a way that brings it to a quick resolution, does not subject the city to countless lawsuits, and doesn’t throw the 2009 election into chaos.”
Bloomberg also has found support from billionaire Ron Lauder, a cosmetics heir who used his fortune to help promote earlier term-limit votes.
The Oct. 15-19 poll surveyed 1,017 New York City registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. (Additional reporting by Edith Honan, editing by Bill Trott)