In today's NY Post columnist and former council member Charles Millard (whose father, as former president of New York Coca Cola, will always be dear to us Diet Coke fiends) takes a look at the race to become the Council's next Speaker. Millard's biggest concern is that both of the leading contenders will steer the legislative body in a direction that is "liberal in the extreme."
Yikes! We just re-elected a mayor who, in two electoral forays spent over $150 million to become the city's chief executive, and Choo Choo Charlie is blowing his whistle about the dangers of extreme liberalism in the Council? His fears are misdirected and misplaced.
The real concern is whether the next Speaker has the skill to build up the strength of the City Council so that it can act as a counterbalance to a mayor who, by Charter, holds most of the governing cards. What this means to us is that the Council needs a strong reorganizing hand in order to upgrade its legislative as well as investigative capabilities.
In particular, given the mayor's penchant for mega-development, the Council needs to cultivate a clear legislative blueprint and mandate for accountable development. This is particularly true since the mayor has strongly defended the use of eminent domain and there are a number of places around the city where ED, if it is to be used, needs to be carefully scrutinized in order to determine its relationship to the public good.
In addition, as we have already seen, communities all over the city are complaining about the impact of overdevelopment. A key aspect of this complaint is the way in which much of this development is purely developer-driven and is not accompanied by any degree of careful planning. This underscores are suggestion that the entire ULURP process needs to be overhauled.
These are issues that transcend any ideological pigeonholing. They strike right at the heart of democratic governance and are particularly resonant in a city ruled by a billionaire who sees himself as "above politics." The neighborhoods of this city need the City Council as a strong check on mayoral power and we're extremely optimistic that the next Speaker will provide this counterweight.