3:38 pm Aug. 22, 20121
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn this afternoon dodged a barrage of questions about the mayor's stalled outer-borough taxi plan, what role she has played in its failure, and what role she plans to play in repairing the subsequent budgetary damage.
Last week, a district court judge declared the mayor's plan to create a new fleet of 18,000 lime-green taxis for the outer boroughs, and sell 2,000 wheelchair-accessible yellow taxi medallions "null and void." His central argument: the Bloomberg administration should have first acquired the City Council's approval in what's known as a "home rule" request before getting Albany's go-ahead.
By all accounts, the legislature told the mayor's office that no home rule request was necessary. Nevertheless his staff and the speaker negotiated for months to reach some sort of agreement. It remains unclear why they were unable to, and Quinn told me in an interview that she couldn't say why the administration chose to go around the Council, in effect, by going straight to Albany.
Quinn has never publicly expressed support for the mayor's plan. Nor has she publicly derided it.
The speaker, who's running for mayor next year, has a habit of avoiding politically touchy subjects, though she did recently express some muted displeasure with the judge's decision, since, among other things, it leaves a gap of more than $600 million in this year's budget.
The mayor's office plans to appeal the judge's ruling.
Today, reporters asked Quinn about the taxi legislation and her role in the failed negotiations with the administration. She was not particularly obliging in her answers.
Did she support the bill the borough taxi bill the state legislature passed earlier this year?
"That bill as written is kind of a moot point right now as it relates to our home rule, because you cannot do a retroactive one," she said. "I think the goals of that bill, to get more taxi service, to get medallion sales, are ones that I do support."
Let's say the legislature passed the same bill again, and this time requested a home rule request, like the judge says it should have, would she comply?
"Any request to get a home rule messge we will take action on and we will consider," she said. "I'm not gonna hypothetically comment on what Albany may or may not have or send us. When we get the legislation, or when the legislation is introduced or re-introduced, whichever it is, then we'll comment on it. But the idea of there being legislation that will facilitate a medallion sale and will get us money and facilitate the creation of five-borough taxi service is absolutely something I am open to. I believe a significant number of my colleagues are open to. And as soon as we get the legislation, we will consider it."
But why can't she say whether she's support a home rule message for a hypothetical bill that is identical to the one already passed, a piece of legislation that has been discussed extensively?
"I'm just not gonna speak hypothetically, you know what I mean," she said.
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