skip to Main Content

Originally Published: November 20, 2013

Reforms Surprisingly go beyond those embraced by progressive caucus

Widespread Support Exists to Address Even Those Personal Benefits Often Prized by Councilmembers – Reduce Number of Committees, Limit “Lulus” to Leadership Positions, and Create a More Equitable and Needs-Based Discretionary Funding Process

Presenting widespread support for reforms previously thought to be unachievable, Citizens Union unveils a list of re-elected and incoming 2014 New York City Councilmembers who support widespread changes to the City Council Rules, which are the governing rules for the operations of the City Council.  These specific reforms build on and go beyond the ones embraced last month by 31 members of the city council.  Most notable among them is that 29 councilmembers support reducing the number of committees, 30 support eliminating “lulus” for all but for leadership positions and 37 support making future pay increases prospective rather than effective immediately.

“The time for comprehensive and widespread reform to City Council’s Rules has arrived,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “With the recent election of twenty-one new members and the upcoming selection of a new Speaker, the City Council has a unique opportunity to implement reforms that would make the body more democratic and effective, while ensuring that it is a strong institution that can balance a powerful mayor. That so many members support reforms that are specifically tied to personal benefits is significant and shows just how committed the members are to changing the rules and the culture so that the broader public interest is served.”

These positions are contained in Citizens Union’s candidate questionnaires or other public documents.

Citizens Union has long been a champion in the movement to reform the operations of the City Council since 2006, when it released its groundbreaking report, Principles of Council Reform: Ideas for a More Democratic and Effective City Council (2006).  In reviewing the progress made to reform the rules, it also released a report card that evaluated reforms put in place in 2006 and 2010: Grading the New York City Council’s Rules and Budget Reforms (2010).  Citizens Union has also examined in-depth the Council’s discretionary funding process, releasing a comprehensive report detailing the allocations of individual members for expense and capital funding, as well as the process as a whole: Creating a More Objective and Equitable Discretionary Funding Process in New York City (2012).

Citizens Union utilized its knowledge gained from these past, longstanding positions in these reports to shape the recent October 30, 2013 “ Rules Reform Agenda” supported by 31 incoming members of the City Council.  The agenda presents an important emerging consensus for rules reform in the Council, though would be even stronger with the addition of two important areas supported by Citizens Union: reducing the number of committees, and reforming council compensation.

In total, widespread, majority support exists for changes to Citizens Union’s priority reform areas, including the following:

  • Operations of Council Committees –  Empowering committee chairs in the running of committees and the reducing in the number of committees;
  • Councilmember Compensation – Greater disclosure of outside income, elimination of “lulus” or stipends for positions other than leadership, and ensuring that pay increases apply prospectively;
  • Discretionary Funding –  Ensuring a more equitable and needs-based approach to funding, and creating greater transparency; and
  • Independent Bill Drafting – Creation of an independent bill drafting service, similar to what is in place for the New York State Legislature, which enables members to more easily have bills drafted and introduced.

The list of councilmember support for major reform issue areas and specific proposals follows.

Council Committee Operations Reform

Citizens Union has found that there is major support for reform of the operations and functions of council committees. Councilmembers overwhelmingly support reforms that would reduce the number of committees, while granting them more autonomy. This would provide members more of an opportunity to shape the agenda of the body.  All told, forty-seven councilmembers expressed support for at least one rules reform relating to committee operations.

Committee Operations Reform Item Total Supporters

Councilmembers Who Have Expressed Support on Citizens Union Questionnaire

(* denotes support for “Rules Reform Agenda”)

Committee Chairs Scheduling Hearings and Votes

 

46[1]

 

Barron*, Cabrera, Chin, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Deutsch, Dickens, Dromm, Espinal, Ferreras, Garodnick, Gentile, Gibson, Greenfield, Ignizio, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lancman*, Lander, Levin, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Mealy, Menchaca, Mendez, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vacca, Vallone, Van Bramer, Weprin*, Williams

Committee Chairs Hiring Their Own Staff 44 Barron*, Cabrera, Chin, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Dromm, Espinal, Ferreras, Garodnick, Gentile, Gibson, Greenfield, Ignizio, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lancman*, Lander, Levin, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Mealy, Menchaca, Mendez, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vacca, Vallone, Van Bramer, Weprin, Williams
Committees Using Subpoena Powers 45

 

Barron*, Cabrera, Chin, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Deutsch, Dromm, Espinal*, Ferreras, Garodnick, Gentile[2], Gibson*, Greenfield, Ignizio, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lancman*, Lander, Levin, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Mealy, Menchaca, Mendez, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vacca, Vallone, Van Bramer, Weprin, Williams

Reducing the Number of Committees 29

 

Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Dromm, Garodnick, Gentile, Greenfield, Ignizio, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lander, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Menchaca, Mendez, Richards, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Ulrich, Vallone, Van Bramer, Williams

 

Councilmember Compensation Reform

A significant number of councilmembers have indicated support for reforms regarding how they are paid and the degree to which their outside income is subject to disclosure. Citizens Union believes that these reforms would bring greater transparency to the City Council, diminish conflicts of interest, and eliminate the use of lulus to bring about conformity within the Council. Forty-three incumbent and incoming councilmembers have stated that they support at least one of these crucial reforms.

Compensation Reform Item

Total Supporters

Councilmembers Who Have Expressed Support on Citizens Union Questionnaire

(* denotes support for “Rules Reform Agenda”)  

Greater Disclosure of Outside Income

27

Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Deutsch, Gentile, Gibson, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Lander, Levin, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Menchaca, Reynoso, Richards, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vallone, Weprin, Williams 

Limiting Stipends or “Lulus” to Leadership Positions

30[3]

Cabrera, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Dromm, Ferreras, Garodnick, Gentile [4], Greenfield, Johnson, Kallos, Koo, Koslowitz, Lander, Levin, Levine, Matteo, Mealy, Menchaca, Mendez, Miller, Reynoso, Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Ulrich, Vallone, Van Bramer

Applying Council Member Pay Increases Prospectively (i.e. Pay Increases Go Into Effect After Next Election)

37

Chin, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Dromm, Espinal, Garodnick, Gentile, Greenfield, Ignizio, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lander, Levin, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Menchaca, Mendez, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Ulrich, Vallone, Van Bramer, Williams

 

Discretionary Funding Reform

Citizens Union believes that reforms to the current way of distributing discretionary funds by the City Council would make distribution of funds more equitable and needs-based, and result in Councilmembers not fearing retribution in seeking to represent their constituents when their positions differ from the Speaker. As Citizens Union began asking councilmembers about their position on this reform issue in 2012, only thirty-one of the current councilmembers have responded to a question regarding reforms to the practice of discretionary funding. In total, thirty-eight councilmembers have indicated support for a reform of discretionary funding.

Discretionary Funding Reform Item Total Supporters

Councilmembers Who Have Expressed Support

on Citizens Union Questionnaire

(* denotes support for “Rules Reform Agenda”)

Disbursing Discretionary Funds on Basis of Need/Equity 37[5]

 

Barron*, Cabrera*, Chin*, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Dromm*, Espinal, Ferreras*, Garodnick*, Gentile, Gibson, Greenfield*, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Lancman*, Lander, Levin, Levine, Mark-Viverito, Menchaca, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez*, Rose*, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vallone, Van Bramer*, Weprin*, Williams

Increased Transparency of Discretionary Funding 38[6]

 

Barron*, Cabrera*, Chin, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Dromm*, Espinal, Ferreras*, Garodnick*, Gentile, Gibson*, Greenfield*, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Lancman*, Lander, Levin, Levine, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Menchaca, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez*, Rose*, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vallone, Van Bramer*, Weprin, Williams*

 

Independent Bill Drafting Service

Councilmembers were asked to indicate their position on the creation of an independent bill drafting service on Citizens Union’s 2013 candidate questionnaire. Currently the Speaker’s counsels draft legislation for individual members.  Legislation is not always drafted, however, within the required 60 days and sometimes not at all if the Speaker’s lawyers determine proposals are pre-empted by state law or raise other legal questions, on which reasonable lawyers may disagree. Forty councilmembers have expressed support for an independent bill drafting service.

Council Rules Reform Issue Total Supporters

Councilmembers Who Have Expressed Support on Citizens Union Questionnaire

(* denotes support for “Rules Reform Agenda”)

Independent Bill Drafting Service 40

 

Barron*, Cabrera*, Chin, Cohen, Cornegy, Costantinides, Crowley, Cumbo, Dickens, Dromm*, Espinal, Ferreras*, Garodnick*, Gentile, Gibson, Greenfield*, Johnson, Kallos, King*,Koo, Lancman*, Lander, Levin, Levine, Maisel, Mark-Viverito, Matteo, Menchaca, Miller, Reyoso, Richards, Rodriguez*, Rose*, Rosenthal, Torres, Treyger, Vallone, Van Bramer*, Weprin, Williams*[7]

Councilmembers were identified as supporters for specific reforms if they answered in the affirmative to a question on the matter in either a 2005, 2009 (regular and/or special election), 2012 (special election), or 2013 candidate questionnaire submitted to Citizens Union. The most recent questionnaire data for each councilmember was used to determine support, and any change in position between questionnaires was noted. The October 30th “ Rules Reform Agenda” was used to determine additional support. Councilmembers whose support was only evident from the “Rules Reform Agenda” are denoted with an asterisk.

 

[1] Councilmember Weprin expressed support for this reform on his 2009 questionnaire, but did not provide an answer on his 2013 questionnaire. Weprin later supported the issue, however, by signing the New York City Council Rules Reform Agenda (for 2014 Session), October 30, 2013

[2] Councilmember Gentile opposed this reform on his 2009 questionnaire, but indicated support on his 2013 questionnaire.

[3] Councilmember Chin expressed support for this reform on her 2009 questionnaire, but gave no answer on her 2013 questionnaire.

[4] Councilmember Gentile opposed this reform in 2009, but indicated support on his 2013 questionnaire.

[5] Councilmembers Chin and Weprin did not provide an answer to this question on their 2013 questionnaires, but expressed support by signing the New York City Council Rules Reform Agenda (for 2014 Session), October 30, 2013

[6] Councilmembers Gibson and Williams did not provide an answer to this question on their 2013 questionnaires, but expressed support by signing the New York City Council Rules Reform Agenda (for 2014 Session), October 30, 2013

[7] Councilmember Williams did not provide an answer to this question on his 2013 questionnaires, but expressed support by signing the New York City Council Rules Reform Agenda (for 2014 Session), October 30, 2013.

Back To Top