The candidates running to be the next City Council speaker squared off Thursday in the first televised debate for the position, which was hosted by NY1. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
The speaker of the City Council needs to work with the mayor and also be a check against him, and on Thursday, the candidates running for the position insisted that they will each strike the right balance.
"We're going to work with the mayor on issues we care about and work with him on," said City Councilman Mark Weprin of Queens. "But let's not forget, part of our job is going to be to do oversight."
Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose City Council district covers parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, is the candidate with the closest ties to mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.
"I have an independent track record," Mark-Viverito said. "Where it is important to stand with the mayor on issues, I have stood with the mayor on issues. Where there are times when you have to stand apart, you stand apart."
The candidates also debated the efforts underway to curtail the influence of the speaker. Some members are pushing reforms that would give individual legislators more power and ensure that public dollars are distributed to districts more equitably.
"People need to feel like if they invoke the rules to advance a bill or to advance a cause, they're not going to be punished for it," said City Councilman Daniel Garodnick of Manhattan. "In fact, they will be respected, and that will be the culture of the Council."
"The speaker has to have some type of ability to have some control because we have to have a strong speaker who listens to the membership," said City Councilwoman Inez Dickens of Manhattan.
City Councilman James Vacca of the Bronx said that as speaker, he would start council meetings on time.
"We have the public waiting for hours," Vacca said. "People who come to testify for a 10 o'clock hearing are not testifying 'til 3 in the afternoon."
City Councilwoman Annabel Palma of the Bronx raised concerns about an increasingly popular practice known as participatory budgeting, which gives local constituents a say over how money is spent in their district.
"If we're going to do participatory budget in a real way, we have to be honest about how much money the City Council has in capital dollars and how we are going to allocate it," Palma said.
City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn is also running for speaker. The full council will elect its new speaker in January.
Sponsoring Council Members: Inez Barron, Fernando Cabrera, Margaret Chin, Andrew Cohen, Costa Constantinides, Laurie Cumbo, Danny Dromm, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Andy King, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Mark Levine, Carlos Menchaca, I. Daneek Miller, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Ydanis Rodriguez, Debi Rose, Helen Rosenthal, Ritchie Torres, Mark Treyger, Jimmy Van Bramer, Eric Ulrich.
Community Organizations: ALIGN NY, Arab American Association of New York, BOOM! Health, Bronx Defenders, Bronx Health REACH, Bronx Youth Empowerment Program, Brooklyn Movement Center, CASA, Center for Popular Democracy, Chhaya CDC, Community Voices Heard, Citizen Action of NY, Drug Policy Alliance, Faith in New York, GMHC, La Fuente, Minkwon Center for Community Action, Make the Road NY, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, New Economy Project, NY Civic Engagement Table, NY Communities for Change, NY Harm Reduction Educators, NY Immigration Coalition, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, NYHRE, Russian-American Voters Educational League, ROC United, Sisters and Brothers United, South Bronx Community Association, Street Vendor Project, Sustainable South Bronx, Tenants PAC, Transportation Alternatives, TWU Local 100, UPROSE, Urban Youth Collaborative, VOCAL-NY, WEACT for Environmental Justice.