A race for Council speaker takes shape, sort of
The race for City Council speaker has begun.
Or, more precisely, it's been going on for a very long time, but is just now beginning to come into clear view.
The New York Times weighed in this afternoon with its unofficial list of candidates for City Council speaker, which includes Dan Garodnick, Inez Dickens and Melissa Mark-Viverito from Manhattan; Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn; James Vacca and Annabel Palma from the Bronx
Brooklyn; and Mark Weprin from Queens.
The story includes one loud shot across the bow of Williams' prospective candidacy, from Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who doubts the Council would elect a speaker who isn't pro-choice and pro-same-sex marraige.
"I think my personal beliefs are less important than what I’ve done legislatively on issues that have come before the Council," Williams said in response.
The piece also quotes political consultant George Arzt saying the next speaker almost certainly will not be white, especially if Daniel Squadron wins the public advocate's race, which would mean all three citywide officials are white men.
If Arzt is right, that would rule out Garodnick, Weprin, and Vacca, leaving Dickens, Viverito, Palma and Williams to try to cobble together a mix of county-based support and votes from the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and the Progressive Caucus.
The speaker will be selected by the Council's Democrats, who currently occupy 47 of the body's 51 seats.
Seth Barron at Council Watch games out a scenario that ends with the election of Garodnick.
"The problem with electing a minority speaker is that there is a deep schism within the B.L.A. Caucus between the black and Latino members," Barron wrote. "They have drawn-out internecine battles over every internal appointment to the leadership of their own caucus, so the idea that they would reach a unified consensus on choosing one of their own members to lead the entire council is preposterous."
"Garodnick becomes speaker, satisfying the real estate interests who feel soothed having a Manhattanite from below 96th Street in that role. Annabel Palma becomes majority leader in order to maintain Bronx Latino visibility in leadership. Jumaane Williams is made chair of Public Safety as a sop to the Progressive Caucus. In order to mollify Queens, Mark Weprin becomes Finance chair, taking over his brother’s position from four years ago, while Karen Koslowitz gets Land Use and Julissa Ferreras gets bumped up to Economic Development. This calculus doesn’t favor Brooklyn, but realistically speaking, half of Brooklyn’s delegation will be freshmen, while only 1 out of Queens’ 13 council members will be new."
Barron also says Viverito is "too far to the left and is not trusted by the black contingent of the [Black, Latino and Asian] caucus."
Neither story directly addresses the role that a prospective Mayor de Blasio would play in helping pick a speaker, which, as Chris Bragg wrote earlier, could be pivotal.
Today, Bragg added a few more names the list of prospective candidates: Jimmy van Bramer of Queens and Rosie Mendez of Manhattan.
Colby Hamilton has news about an effort among some lawmakers to limit the power of the next speaker, a move that usually precedes the changing of the guard.
After Peter Vallone Sr. vacated the position in 2002, Allan Jennings of Queens and others put the speaker candidates through a public vetting process, hoping to give more power to rank-and-file lawmakers. The job went to Gifford Miller, and the reforms, in hindsight, didn't appear to make much difference.
In early 2006, there was a more thorough public vetting process, where candidates attended mayoral-style forums at Baruch College and in front of housing advocates, though, ultimately, the position was won by Christine Quinn, thanks to her support from the Democratic party in Queens County.
While she was seen as more transparent and accommodating than Miller, there were still complaints that discretionary spending was, well, too discretionary. And legislation Quinn opposed never made it out of committee, except once, and even that was with her blessing.
The real power of the speaker's office is to control spending and the legislative calendar through the budgeting process and centralized committee staff members. The speaker's office has final say over whether a chairperson can hold a hearing on a given topic.
And for more speculation, here's a fun speaker-dedicated twitter feed:
@azi Palma: 8 Bronx votes + 7 additional Latinos + 9 additional Progressives = 24 votes. Close to breaking traditional MAN/QNS alliance.— George Mcaneny (@NYCSPEAKERRACE) September 19, 2013