9:10 am May. 2, 20121
Millions of dollars in discretionary City Council funds are distributed based on politics, rather than the needs of the districts that receive them.
According to a report from Citizens Union, the chairmen of the finance and housing committees, Domenic Recchia and Eric Dilan, who also happen to be close allies of the powerful Brooklyn Democratic County leader, got more than $100 million. Republican Dan Halloran and his predecessor, maverick Democrat Tony Avella, combined, got $9.5 million.
There is nothing shocking about this finding, of course. The distribution of discretionary funds is the means by which leadership exercises its power, and always has been. But legislators rarely bother complaining about it, and the ones who do are usually ignored.
Councilman Charles Barron, who represents one of the single neediest districts in the city, but whose insurgent posture and propensity to make outrageous statements make him particularly easy for leadership to dismiss, has talked about this for years. Reports like Citizens Union's latest happen to bear out what he's been saying, at least in terms of the inequity.
In a profile of Barron and the communities he represents that I did for Capital and Thirteen.org in the very early days of this website's existence (I'd say "in case you missed it," but that would be putting on airs, because you almost certainly did), Barron said that the poorest districts often lost out for want of better political connections.
Barron, a former Black Panther, also said that there is a racial element to it.
"Look at the blacks and tell me it was based on the need in their community," Barron said, back in 2010. "Tell me it was based on some super skills that they [other Council members] had. What was it?"
The Citizens Union report, for the record, seems to indicate that some districts represented by white councilmembers without strong connections to party leadership are losing out on discretionary money, too, and five of the top ten "highest recipients of Capital Funding" last year were black or Latino legislators.