Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - August 19, 2003

New York City Council Stated Meeting Report

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.

STATED MEETING - August 19, 2003

Quote of the Day:
"James, you are doing it now, man. I got calls from Egypt, from Bogota, Colombia, from England. All over the world, they are talking about you, James. All over the United States, all over the city, they are talking about you. There is a divine purpose for this moment." - Councilmember Charles Barron on the life and death of James E. Davis, who was shot in City Hall in July.

Meeting Summary:
The New York City Council met for the first time since Brooklyn Councilmember James E. Davis was shot to death in City Hall last month.

In tribute, Davis's desk in the City Council chambers was draped with an American flag and constituents held up signs with his photograph in the balcony where the shooting occurred. Davis's family, including his mother Thelma, and brother Geoffrey, who is now running for the open seat, also attended.

Davis, who was elected to Brooklyn's 35th district council seat in 2001, was a former police officer, and the chair of Stop the Violence, a non-profit organization, which he founded in 1990. Davis also fought against youth violence, child abuse, and police brutality, winning widespread media attention for his efforts.

He was also known for his sense of humor, his love of the spotlight, and, at times, his independence in voting against the party and council leadership. Council members spent the first hour and a half of the meeting recounting memories of their colleague.

"James lived his life in pursuit of a better, safer world for our children, and that is a legacy that we all should be dedicated to continuing," said Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum recalled her usual ritual of greeting Davis, which consisted of a hug, a high-five, and a laugh. "I realize how much that ritual meant to me and how much I miss him," said Gotbaum.

Republican Councilmember James Oddo talked of how Davis even made the "Minority Leader's Hall of Fame" - a collection of photographs in the office of party that has only three representatives and loses every controversial vote in the council - when the Democrat Davis voted with the Republicans against the 18.5 percent property tax in 2002.

Security in the council chambers was increased after the July 23 meeting when political rival Othniel Askew shot Davis. Askew, who bypassed metal detectors as he entered City Hall with Davis, was fatally shot by a police officer. There were more police officers on the council floor and everyone entering City Hall, including council members and their staff, had to pass through a metal detector.

The City Council also voted on legislation held over from the day of the shooting.

The council approved a street furniture bill (L.U. 226-A and Res 1004) that makes way for the construction of bus shelters and public pay toilets that will be funded by advertising placed on the sides of the structures. Under this legislation, new public pay toilets will be handicap accessible and must be approved by the Department of Transportation, the community board, the council speaker, and the mayor. Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff estimates that the legislation could generate up to $400 million in revenue for the city over the next 20 years.

The council also passed a bill (Intro 399-A) that creates an Adopt-A-Park program for the city. Individuals, community groups, or corporations will be allowed to donate money and volunteer time to the park of their choice.

Another bill (Intro 410) reduces the amount of time an elderly New Yorker must wait to apply for senior citizen rent increase exemption benefits. Under the existing law if a person loses income - for example if a spouse dies and their pension payments end - an individual may have to wait up to a year to apply for the program that helps low-income senior citizens pay their rent. The new law allows a person to apply immediately.

All of the measures passed unanimously (by a vote of 44 to 0, with six council members absent), with the exception of a bill (Intro 509) establishing a Business Improvement District in the downtown Flushing transit hub. Queens Councilmember Allan Jennings voted against the measure, but did not return phone calls for comment.

The City Council also passed a resolution that Councilmember Davis was going to introduce the day he was murdered. The resolution (Res 983) calls on the New York State Department of Labor and Health Hazard Abatement Board to "promptly implement meaningful and enforceable safety standards in order to prevent violence in the workplace."

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for September 17, 2003.

For more on the race to fill James Davis's seat in the council, visit the Community Gazette page for district 35

Post your comments on the James E. Davis message board

For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.



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