City Council Speaker Candidates Speak
November 17th, 2005
Whoever is selected as the next Speaker of the New York City Council will likely use his/her power to amend the term limits law, allowing members to serve 12 years instead of 8 years — that was the consensus of all seven of the speaker hopefuls who attended a public forum at Baruch College.
Leroy Comrie, Bill deBlasio, Lewis Fidler, Melinda Katz, Christine Quinn, Joel Rivera, and David Weprin all said they were opposed to term limits, which they believe has weakened the City Council as a balance to the mayor and has given too much power to lobbyists and staff members.
“Every speaker will be a lame duck,” said Lew Fidler.
“The speaker should have at least one more term than the mayor,” said Melinda Katz.
“Let’s put it this way, when you go to the dentist, do you want someone right out of dental school,” said Joel Rivera, who was elected to the council at age 19.
The seven candidates all support Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s garbage plan, although each vowed to increase recycling.
When asked about the looming $4 billion budget deficit, each mentioned the commuter tax, although Lew Fidler was the only one to admit it is probably not realistic to believe Albany would ever agree to one.
Each person also said they support the use of eminent domain for private development, but only under special circumstances.
When asked how they would reform the operations of the council itself, some offered specific rule changes like speeding up the legislative process, providing better notification of what members will vote on at meetings (some have complained they don’t know until they show up), and allowing more debate on the floor of the council.
“I will end the practice of Speaker-mail,” said Christine Quinn, referring to current Speaker Gifford Miller’s use of $1.3 million in taxpayer funds to tout his record to voters across the city during his mayoral campaign.
The candidates reserved their most passionate speeches for the city’s Campaign Finance Board, something which will likely earn points with many council members who say they feel bullied by the agency.
“Their mission is flawed,” said Melinda Katz.
“They have become rule makers, judge, and jury,” said Leroy Comrie.
Although the speaker is selected from within the council and the voters have no say in who holds the “second most powerful position in the city,” hundreds of people packed the standing-room only auditorium. And dozens of people — including current council members, reporters, and City Hall staffers – were kept waiting downstairs when Baruch security guards told them the room was beyond capacity.
This apparently included bloggers from Backroom Deal Breakers, who are following the speaker’s race – and smelled a conspiracy.
Those who missed it – or were barred from the overcrowded room – can read a full transcript on GothamGazette.com when it becomes available.By Mark Berkey-Gerard on November 17, 2005, 10:07 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing | 1 Comment »