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City Council unveils reforms that decrease speaker's influence

On Tuesday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito revealed a series of rules reforms that she says would make the body more fair and transparent.

mark viverito council On Tuesday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito revealed a series of rules reforms that she says would make the body more fair and transparent.
Credit: William Alatriste/NYC Council

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito revealed a series of reforms on Tuesday that would limit her own influence on how money is distributed between the members.

The new rules would change how Council members divide a pot of money, one that previous speakers would decide on how to allocate on her own.

Under the new formula, all Council members would get the same amount of money, with the possibility of poorer districts getting up to 25 percent more specifically for anti-poverty measures.

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Critics of former Speaker Christine Quinn often accused her of being arbitrary if not vindictive towards fellow Council members, with a few members getting two or three times what some peers would receive.

Brooklyn Councilwoman Inez Barron, whose husband Charles Barron previously represented the same district during Quinn's leadership, lauded the reforms.

"For far too long, the Council has been subject to over dominance of the Council speaker, to the degree that district constituents have suffered from diminished allocations for important projects and programs in their districts," she said in a statement Tuesday.

Known for his bombastic rhetoric and unflinching criticism of the Bloomberg administration, the East New York district under Charles's representation typically received less than his colleagues.

"The new and comprehensive reforms the Council will introduce today are needed to create a more responsive, transparent and inclusive legislative body that can be a stronger force for effective city government," Mark-Viverito said in a statement.

While the Council may be satisfied with the arrangement, it may be for naught if Mayor Bill de Blasio has a say. During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio — a former Councilman himself — committed to eliminating discretionary spending.

Other changes to the Council's operations include more power to individual members and Council committee to introduce bills and get them to the floor for a vote. In previous Councils, speakers were known to stop certain bills from being entertained by its members.

Committees will also be given slack in how often the have to meet, from once a month to at least once ever two months.

On transparency, the reforms would require that all discretionary spending be tracked through the city's Open Data plan. Similarly, the Council would adopt provision to make hearings, transcripts and voting records more publicly available.

The Council's rules committee is scheduled to discuss the reforms at a public hearing on May 7th.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter@chestersoria

 
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