The Race for Speaker of New York City Council Meet the Candidates

The Race for Speaker of New York City Council

Last night, the 4th and originally last of the Speaker Series Forum was held at the Transition tent on Canal Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan.  Another Series was recently schedule for Nov. 25th at Staten Island, which makes all 5 boroughs covered.  The Manhattan Speaker Forum was live streamed and moderated by NY1’s Errol Louis (Host of Inside City Hall) and NY1 Noticias’ Juan Manuel Benitez (Host of  Pura Politica).

Here are some highlights on this forum.

Six of the 7 candidates who participated in the forum were Dan Gardodnick and Inez Dickens of Manhattan, Mark Weprin of Queens, James Vacca, Anabel Palma, Melissa-Mark-Viverito of the Bronx.  Melissa Mark Viverito also represents parts of Manhattan.  Jumaane Williams from Brooklyn who entered the race recently was present in the crowd. He was not on stage due to his late entry and space constraints.  He did have a one to one follow up with NY1 after the forum.

All of the 6 candidates answered “No” when Errol Louis asked the candidates whether they would eliminate or alter term limits.  Noteworthy both Vacca (BX) and Dickens (MHTN) voted Yes in 2009 on overturning term limits.  Gardodnick (MHTN), Palma (BX) and Mark-Viverito (BX/MHTN) voted against overturning term limits in 2009. Weprin was in the State Assembly and not in the city council in 2009.

The 6 candidates were split on the Speaker rule reforms.  Garodnick, Weprin and Mark-Viverito support sweeping reforms to reduce Speaker’s powers over the other 50 members through discretionary funding, committee assignments and flow of legislation.  Vacca, Dickens and Palma don’t support these reforms because they believe it would weaken the body.   Both Mark-Viverito and Willimas are part of the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council.

Also the 6 candidates were split on participating budgeting where taxpayers decide on limited amounts which projects/organizations to fund in their district.  Garodnick, Weprin and Mark-Viverito all tried out participating budgeting in their district and are optimistic about it. The other 3 candidates, Vacca, Dickens and Palma did not try out participating budget and expressed concerns about it.  However they stated they were not against other members doing participating budgeting.

I found two responses in the forum quite interesting.  One was from Inez Dickens who mentioned transparency was implanted in the city council on its budget and funding in Schedule C.  However she failed to mention the transparency was as a result of the slush fund scandals in 2008.  It was reported then that millions of taxpayer’s dollars were set-aside in non-existing organizations. Also Weprin response to the question “Describe a member item that badly went wrong and what you learned from your experience.”

Weprin stated he funded a story telling group but DOE stated it was prohibited and he learned DOE doesn’t listen to parents. Interesting part is how Weprin failed to mention the program Young Leaders Institute whose head was arrested for theft of its money.  Even though there was no wrongdoing found on Weprin’s part in funding this program, it does seem strange he would not mention this incident as an example.

Even though the public does not vote next year on their new speaker, it provided both the public and the members of the city council a preview of the New Speaker interaction with the media and the public as a “spokesperson”.  I do believe these forums were not only valuable for transparency but also good as part of the vetting process.

Written by Rosanna Delgado



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