De Blasio turns Halloran's troubles into a hit on Quinn
On Wednesday morning, one day after City Councilman Dan Halloran was arrested in Queens, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio called for a permanent end to the member items doled out by the City Council.
He also blamed Council Speaker Christine Quinn for allowing a rash of recent arrests to happen "on her watch."
"This is the straw that breaks the camel's back, from my point of view," said de Blasio. "This is one arrest too many, and it's time to just end it."
Halloran was accused, among other things, of offering to redirect some of his Council money to an undercover agent posing as a real estate developer in return for cash payments.
But de Blasio actually had more to say about Quinn, who was defending member items in an appearance not too far away, than he did about Halloran, whose clumsy scheme to bribe state senator Malcolm Smith onto the Republican line for mayor was also among the government's charges.
De Blasio conceded that he distributed member items to organizations in his district during his eight years on the Council, but chose to focus instead on the time since he had graduated to public advocate.
"When I was in the City Council, people weren't going to jail," he said. "And the problem has gotten worse and worse."
De Blasio, who served on the Council from 2002 to 2010, called the three recent convictions, plus Halloran's arrest, a "shocking reality."
Asked if he thought Quinn had done something to encourage the criminal behavior, de Blasio said, "The facts speak for themselves. These things happened on her watch. Whatever efforts she made or didn't make, they happened on her watch."
De Blasio, who may be searching for a new signature issue since Quinn dispatched an intensifying political problem by striking a compromise on paid sick leave, did his best to make a larger point about his rival's leadership.
"Don't forget the problem of retribution," he said, referencing recent stories about Quinn's alleged use of member item funds to command political allegiance, adding, "The problem of retribution alone makes the case clearly for why we need to end this practice."
He also brought up the city's slush fund scandal, which was recently reported to be costing the city money for legal fees, and took credit for some recent reforms that made the process more transparent.
"As that movement grew, Speaker Quinn felt that she had to agree to similar reforms," he said of the reforms his office proposed in 2010. "So our office led the way and she ultimately agreed to do the same thing. I think that's a pattern we've seen repeated in recent weeks."
De Blasio said he hoped those reforms would be enough to fix the abuses in the system, but that "they simply weren't sufficient."
In an appearance nearby, right around the same time a de Blasio's, Quinn argued that organizations shouldn't be punished for the bad deeds of individuals like Halloran. Her camp was quick to point out that de Blasio hadn't been such a vocal critic of the system when he was in the Council.
"This is the height of hypocrisy," said Quinn spokesman Mike Morey. "Bill De Blasio had no problem with member items when he was doling them out and getting campaign contributions in return."