As the dust begins to settle on the triumphant press release issued by Melissa Mark-Viverito, her opponents in the race for City Council speaker insist the fight isn’t over.
Queens Democratic leader Joe Crowley yesterday sounded off over Mark-Viverito’s claim that she has the speakership in hand, saying it “reminds me a little bit of George Bush on the aircraft carrier. You know, this has a ways to go still."
But it will be tough sledding for Crowley who before the Jan. 8 vote will have to find a way to arm twist at least five Council members who have publicly pledged their support to Mark-Viverito. The Queens and Bronx Democratic machines are trying to pump up the candidacy of Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick. Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito has the mayor-elect on her side, who was busy working the phones on her behalf earlier in the week and was able to clear away most of a crowded field.
But no matter the outcome of the speaker’s race, there is much irony here that after all the talk of rejecting smoke-filled rooms and embracing transparency , the winner will be basically the product of a room that’s still pretty smoky.
As the candid Crowley noted of Bill de Blasio: “I'm no stranger to inside baseball, nor is the mayor. The mayor, prior to being mayor and before the City Council, was someone who was very, very comfortable in the back room."
And that’s the rub: there’s nothing really wrong with back rooms – unless you campaign against them. De Blasio – who once said that a search for a new schools chancellor should be transparent – has adopted a remarkably secretive and opaque process to pick the new leader of the schools system. There’s a fine line between “message discipline” and shutting out the public.
It will be a tricky balancing act for the incoming mayor, who raised expectations sky-high during his campaign by vowing to conquer inequality, put pre-K in every pot, and “end stop-and-frisk as we know it.” It’s easy to rage against the dying of the light; it isn’t always so easy lighting one.
For now, de Blasio appears to have pulled off another remarkable political victory – and bruised Crowley’s political ego. But he’s smart enough not to go looking for any aircraft carriers.
Production note: The ItCH will be off next week. But keep on watching “Road to City Hall” for all of our political coverage – including a special program about de Blasio on Dec. 26th. Happy Holidays!