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In Race For Council Speaker, It's Who You Know

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Although the job for City Council speaker will be decided by 51 council members in January, leading candidates for the position tried to woo constituents at a forum in the Bronx on Monday night. Political reporter Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Being the next council speaker may not be just about who he or she is as a candidate, but who or she knows.

"I was the first council member to endorse council member, excuse me, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio,” said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents Manhattan and the Bronx.

That may have put Mark-Viverito at the top of the list to run the 51-member Council.

But at a second public forum on Monday in the Mount Eden section of the Bronx, the other leading candidates were trying to sell their prospects in other ways.

"I have an advantage over my friends here today in that I actually have the ability to run for a second term,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin.

"The role of the speaker is to be a 50-member services operation,” said City Councilman Daniel Garodnick of Manhattan.

Although the standing room only crowd in the Bronx on Monday have no say on who becomes the City Council's next leader, these candidates still ticked off their positions on major issues like stop-and-frisk and corporate subsidies.

“We have to maintain oversight of some agencies that don't think they owe us an explanation because they owe us an explanation,” said City Councilman Jimmy Vacca of the Bronx.

Every candidate argued they would empower individual members.

"There should be no circumstance in which somebody’s putting forth a good idea which simply gets bottled up because of political problems with the speaker,” said Garodnick.

That criticism may be a dig at the current Speaker Christine Quinn. These candidates are doing their best to distance themselves from her tenure, even allies.

"The City Council should be able to have the proper oversight and not be a yes vehicle as what has been said was done for the last 8 years,” City Councilwoman Inez Dickens said.

Dickens is considered a longshot for the spot.

Dickens endorsed Quinn during this year's Democratic primary, putting her relationship with the mayor-elect on ice.
"I was endorsing his opponent and he made a decision to endorse an opponent of mine that he maybe thought may be an entry into the Harlem community,” Dickens said.

In the end, the selection of the speaker is done solely by members of the City Council and they will choose their new leader in January.

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