Address of Speaker A. Gifford Miller To The City Council

My colleagues, when term limits forced out over two-thirds of the council, there were many who said we would have difficulty coming together to as a body. The smooth democratic transition that we are witnessing today has proved the critics wrong and sends a strong message that the council as an institution is stronger and more unified than ever.

This council is fortunate to have members from all walks of life: community leaders, activists, police officers, doctors, clergy, and educators. It is by definition the people1s voice. As council members we are closest to those who elected us, and our diversity mirrors the mosaic that makes our city the greatest place in the world to live, work, and raise a family.

We will need to call upon the diversity of our experience and the depth of our commitment to our communities in the coming years, because it is no secret that our city faces tremendous challenges.

We have suffered the worst attack in our history. Our hearts go out to our fellow New Yorkers who lost family, friends, and loved ones. We will never forget the heroism of our police, fire, and emergency workers who made the ultimate sacrifice so that so many others could escape. And we know that every person who died on that terrible day was a hero in quieter ways to their families and friends and all of us.

Along with that unspeakable human loss, the attacks and slowing the economy have placed our city in a precarious situation. We1ve lost thousands of jobs. We face the largest budget gap since the crisis in the mid-19701s, and the problems confronting our city before September 11 also continue to demand our attention.

We must dramatically improve our public schools and find ways to recruit, train, and retain quality teachers. We must improve and preserve our housing stock and build new affordable housing. We must keep our streets safe and improve community-police relations. We must convince businesses to remain in every part of our city and to create good jobs with good wages. We must maintain our commitment to the things that make our city such a great place to live our parks, our libraries, and our cultural institutions. And above all, in these difficult economic times we must insure that the city does withdraw its helping hand from those who now need it most and that no community carries a disproportionate share of the burden.

My colleagues, these are difficult days for our city. But as I look around this chamber, I am not dismayed. I see unparalleled energy and an eagerness to roll up our sleeves and get to work. I see a council that is as tough and savvy as the city it represents. And a council that is ready to lead.

In the coming years I look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg to address the many challenges that face our city. The people of New York expect and deserve nothing less.

Indeed, it is our obligation to work with the mayor when we agree. So I join the mayor in pledging zero tolerance for bias or prejudice in any form. And I share his commitment to making sure that every branch of the government is more efficient.

But as partners in government and as independent legislature, it is also our duty to challenge him when we differ. Let no one mistake our resolve to stand up for our principles.

My journey to this day has taken me to nearly every corner of this great city -- from Belmont to Bayside, from St. George to St. Albans, from City Island to Coney Island. I1ve walked with many of you through the neighborhoods you represent and have heard the concerns of your constituents. These experiences have enriched me beyond words, and have helped me to better understand the city we all love. They are invaluable to me as your colleague and as your Speaker.

I pledge to work with each and every one of you to address the distinct needs of your individual community. And given the multitude of issues that face our city, I know we will need the leadership and contributions of each of you to be successful.

There is too much work to be done for any one of us to attempt alone. The challenges we face are great, but not as great as the spirit of New Yorkers.

Over the past four months this spirit has brought our city and our neighborhoods together as never before. In this spirit of unity, I pledge as Speaker that the council will work together to move our city forward again, and that no New Yorker and no community will be left behind.

In the coming years I vow to work tirelessly and to repay the honor and trust you that you have placed in me.

January 9, 2002