Council Follies, Again

City Council Watch is relaunching today with a new format: from now on we will be publishing more frequently, with shorter, punchier items.  You can look for our longer analyses at City Journal or various other venues.


The Council voted yesterday on David Greenfield’s school security bill, which allots $20 million to pay for unarmed guards at all private and religious schools.  The bill passed 47-4.

The “No” votes were interesting.  Half the LGBT caucus voted no: CMs Dromm, Mendez and Johnson.  Danny Dromm and Rosie Mendez expressed concern about subsidizing schools that supposedly discriminate or propagandize against sexual minorities.  Corey Johnson made no comment, but indicated that he agreed with his colleague Dromm.

Inez Barron also opposed the measure, claiming that “profit, hedge-fund operated and other entities that choose to establish private educational institutions” should pay all their own costs.

CM Barron did not identify which NYC schools are “operated” by hedge funds.  But she did aver that providing the security guards would directly hurt the city’s public school students by taking away funds from school construction, repairs, etc.

(Incidentally, we note that the statue of Thomas Jefferson that CM Barron promised to destroy in her inaugural comments still lurks over the Chamber, haunting the Council with his evil, pedophiliac aura. When will she fell the great slavemaster?)

David Greenfield struck back, pointing out that the city already provides transportation, nurses, and crossing guards to private schools, and called out the “factually inaccurate” statement regarding funding.  Greenfield pointed out that the city has recently announced expanded funding for HIV positive people, for mental illness treatment, and for supportive housing, and nobody was complaining then that the money was being taken away from anyone else.

“The city of New York, quite frankly,” said Greenfield, “we’re flush with cash.”

Well that’s good to know.  Does the Council imagine that the good times will roll on and on?  When a downturn hits, it will be interesting to hear the cries of pain when these social service programs are forced to scale down.


Your Watcher was fascinated last February by the tremendous effort and resources that the Speaker’s office poured into her egregious “State of the City” address.  As you may (or probably don’t) recall, she built an extremely elaborate website to livestream her speech, which was branded with a special “Lift Every Voice” theme, very much like a political campaign.

As I wrote then, there is no reason for the Speaker of the Council to give a “State of the City” speech.  The mayor is supposed to give one, according to the Charter, but there is no such obligation for the speaker.  Think about it: does Carl Heastie give a “State of the State” address?  No.  Did John Boehner give a “State of the Nation” speech?  How absurd.

In any case I FOILed the Council to get information on the cost and planning of Melissa Mark-Viverito’s speech.  Building fancy websites is not cheap, and livestreaming an event costs a lot too.  The Council’s FOIL officer took nine months to answer my request, and what she gave me makes the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails seem like the epitome of transparent, open government.  I received scores of pages of emails that were entirely redacted except for the “From” line.  About twenty pages were totally black: it was only just possible to see that these pages were nothing more than screenshots of the website.  So why were they blacked from view?

So much for the openness Mark-Viverito promised upon her election.  Her office’s answer to my simple request to see emails pertaining to the production of the exercise in vanity that was her “State of the City” speech is an embarrassment.


Regarding the Speaker’s testimony to the quadrennial pay commission, did anyone else have a laugh when they got to the part where she talked about how much more productive the Council is now than it used to be?  She asserted, ostensibly straight-faced:

From a legislative perspective, the current Council has been even more active than in prior sessions. Council Members have already made 105% more bill and resolution drafting requests, introduced 41% more bills and enacted 32% more Local Laws than through the same time period in the immediately preceding session.

Drafting a bill request takes about ten minutes: the councilmember jots down an idea on a piece of paper and submits it to the office.  It is the job of the Legislative Staff to actually figure out how to turn the member’s brainstorm into something resembling a legal proposal. 

“The Council has not had a raise in ten years….”  Actually that isn’t true.  The current Council hasn’t had a raise in two years, when it was elected.  No one promised the 2013 candidates that they would get paid according to a COLA retroactive to 2005.

In any case the spirit of the 27th Amendment to the Constitution ought to prevail here:  “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”  That is to say, you can’t vote yourself a raise.  Any salary increase should wait until January 1, 2018, after the voters have had a say.