Three Things to Expect in Speaker's Race

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


The 51 members of the City Council pick their new leader Wednesday and the odds on favorite is Mayor Bill de Blasio's preferred candidate, Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito. The deal isn't done yet though, and a smaller group of members still plan to throw their support behind the underdog, Dan Garodnick. Here is what to watch for in the Speaker's race.

1. A Progressive Power Play

Like the Democratic mayoral primary, the race for City Council Speaker started with a crowded field of candidates. The Council’s powerful Progressive caucus, along with the Working Families party, and unions like 32 BJ and 1199 SEIU, have been organizing for years to make the Speaker selection process more transparent and return it to the hands of the members. Even when the idea of Bill de Blasio as mayor seemed like just a progressive pipe dream, they were organizing and had outlined a policy agenda that included participatory government, police reforms like the Community Safety Act and plans to address economic inequality.

This fall, the Progressive caucus decided to back one candidate, after vetting them all. They also attempted to negotiate with county party leaders, who have traditionally used their own weight – and that of their members – to back the ultimate Speaker candidate.

But Mayor de Blasio outmaneuvered them, helping to sway the fence-sitters (and the Brooklyn party leader) by vocally supporting Mark-Viverito’s candidacy. She was the first Council member to endorse his mayoral bid and if/when she wins, it will be in no short measure because of his support.


(Below: Speaker candidate Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito with then Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio after the not guilty verdict in the trial of Trayvon Martin's killer. Brigid Bergin/WNYC)


2. Acts of Treason?

Three weeks ago, Council member Mark-Viverito sent out a press release quoting 30 members who pledged to back her. The release came after Mayor de Blasio helped tip the scales in her favor. Will that block stick together? It's expected to hold up, and may pick up more votes if supporters of Council member Gardonick get too squeamish about staying on a losing team. The roll will be called alphabetically on Wednesday. The magic number is 26. But Gardonick supporters say they have not been swayed to drop their support for him as Speaker, despite the Mayor's outreach to the Bronx delegation on Sunday night.

3. Fallout and Damage Control

After the Council selects its Speaker, the next big questions will be around committee assignments. From Finance to Land Use, Council members are poised to wield significant power and those who opted to support the winner are likely to benefit with plum assignments. Then, after the dust settles, whether in public or private, there will be an effort to bring the Council back together. Ideologically, the members are largely on the same page so the fights will center on politics more than policy.


Julianne Welby


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Comments [2]

Nobody seems to mention that Mark-Viverito used to stand with Council and not recite the pledge of allegiance because she was not happy with her Puerto Rican being treated badly. She represents her Bronx voters, no? Not people who live in Puerto Rico? When she realized this was not going to be good for her speaker etc. desires, she changed and said she didn't know the words of the pledge of allegiance as they don't recite it in PR. Then she should have learned it. Now she seems to be hiding her tax returns. She is decisive and won't make a good council speaker. I wrote my councilman who didn't answer as he must have been one of those who are going to vote for her.

Jan. 08 2014 08:11 AM
Leo from Queens

I get the little article about the power play and positioning in getting the support for speaker and the benefits to the winning side and loss of clout to the losing side.
But where does your cute attempt to portray this as a 3-act dramatic saga lead you to the "act 2" headline of " acts of teason".? Where is the treason? Also. How did mayor DeBlasio outmaneuver them all by basically openly putting his weight and clout in favor of one candidate? This is all open politics based on preference and clout. The only drama I see with this whole process which you don't even cover is the conflict of why the Bronx delegation is against mark- viverito as a whole block. Understanding the reasons behind it could help us understand what kind of person is mark- viverito and what kind of speaker she will be

Jan. 08 2014 12:29 AM

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