New York City Council Stated Meeting Report
Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting, where the 51 members of the council introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of what bills were passed.
STATED MEETING - FEBRUARY 12, 2003
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"Two thousand years ago, there was a man from Galilee who did not agree with Caesar and he too was sacrificed and punished." - Queens Councilmember Allan Jennings on losing his position on the finance committee.
The February 12 meeting of the City Council was divided between real legislation and internal politics.
To the cheers of advocates in the balcony, the New York City Council passed a bill it said would "influence the national scene" on welfare to work. Intro 93-A would allow welfare recipients to count GED and English language classes toward work requirements. The bill will now go to the mayor, who has 30 days to sign or veto it.
The council voted to override the mayor's veto of a bill (Intro 257A) that would restrict the use of cell phones in theaters and concert halls. Violators will now face a $50 fine and eviction from the venue for talking on, listening to or having a cell phone ring at movie theaters, plays, musicals, museums, or libraries. The mayor said it is impossible to enforce, but the billÂ©Ă¶s author, Councilmember Phil Reed, said it would raise the level of civility. The council needed 34 votes to override the mayor's veto; the measure passed with 38 in favor, 5 against, and 2 abstentions.
In an effort to make the city more courteous, the council also approved a recommended "code of conduct" (Intro 322-A) for little league teams, coaches, and parents to keep games or fans from getting violent.
But the majority of the meeting was dedicated to rancorous, internal debate.
Last November, six council members voted against the 18.5 percent property tax increase. Yesterday, those dissenting members - Democrats Allan Jennings, James Davis, and Tony Avella in particular - were "disciplined" by the City Council leadership and stripped of some of their committee responsibilities.
Avella, who lost his position on the rules and elections committee, accepted the decision without comment.
However, Jennings, spreading his arms wide like he was being crucified, likened himself to Jesus and the speaker to Caesar. "Mr. Speaker, I forgive you," Jennings said.
And Davis, a former police officer, compared the experience to being fired from the NYPD after complaining of police brutality on the force. "Is this a political mafia or is this a democracy?" he pleaded.
Speaker Gifford Miller defended the action as a necessary step in making the council a unified counterbalance to the mayor. "Each of you is only in power to the extent that the whole body is in power," Miller said.
After an hour and a half of debate, the action finally came up to a vote; most council members sided with the speaker. The changes to the committees were approved by a vote of 40 to 4, with one abstention. (Click here for a full roster of the new City Council committees and members.)
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for February 26, 2003.