40 BILLION REASONS TO FOCUS ON FUNDS, NOT STREET NAMES

By James Oddo

On December 31, 2001, the City Council of New York will lose 35 members with 492 years of combined experience and a vast knowledge of both the Council and of city government. Less than 12 weeks after being sworn in, a freshman class of new legislators will have the Mayor's Preliminary Budget proposal placed in front of them and will be asked to digest what, in all likelihood, will be a city budget in excess of 40 billion dollarsłthe fourth largest budget in the entire United States.

Talk about learning on the fly!?!

Budgets are often called an Administration's blue print of its agenda. Historically, the Council has played a role in helping to "adjust" the Executive Branch's fiscal view of the city and its budgetary priorities. While the cynics say we in the Council "dabble at the fringes" and do not affect the bulk of the budget, the realist will tell you that those "fringes" are often libraries and cultural funding, health care and programs for our seniors, and education and economic development initiatives. There is no single action a Council Member can take that impacts such a large number of New York City residents than his/her role in budget negotiations and adoption.

It all begins here.

Clearly, with the remarkable turnover that will take place in the Council as a result of term limits, it is likely that this institution will be compelled to take on not only the very serious and complex fiscal concerns, but land use and legislative matters, with a large number of first-time legislators. If the Council is to fulfill the mandate of Charter Revision and be a legitimate check on the Executive Branch, we will need to focus all of our energies on these responsibilities.

Thus, a simple, yet effective change should be instituted which would not only symbolize our "refocusing" but would be a tangible step in redefining our role: taking the Council out of the name change game. Every year the Council entertains hundreds of these commemorative name changes. While they are heartwarming gestures that genuinely mean something to the community, having an entire Council committee dedicated to enacting them is a luxury this body will no longer be able to afford. Thus, I introduced legislation earlier this year which would create a "call-up" system so that street and park name changes, would be initiated, negotiated and voted upon by the community boards after consultation with the appropriate city agency. Short of Council action, i.e., calling up the name change, the community board's decision would stand. This would allow the Council to avoid dealing with the minutia of the name change process, while still preserving a member's right to oppose a particular name change and ultimately decide on its final disposition.

There are forty billion reasons why this new Council will need to address, first and foremost, the critical issues of this city.

James Oddo (R-C), represents the 50th district in Staten Island, covering Arrochar, Bulls Head, Concord, Dongan Hills, Emerson Hill, Fort Wadsworth, Grant City, Graniteville, Grasmere, Island of Meadows, Midland Beach, New Dorp, Prall's Island, Richmondtown, South Beach, Todt Hill, Travis, Westerleigh, Willowbrook, and part of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

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