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Originally Published: January 8, 2014

Calls on members of the council to embrace reforms to create a more democratic body and strong, effective speaker

Statement by Dick Dadey, Executive Director

Citizens Union congratulates Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito on her selection as the next Speaker of the New York City Council, and looks forward to working with Speaker Mark-Viverito to improve the council’s rules and operations of city government.

As the first new speaker in eight years, and the first person of color to hold the post, Speaker Mark-Viverito will play a pivotal role in determining the new rules by which the council operates and how strong and independent a legislative body it will be over the next four years.  Mark-Viverito, as chair of the Progressive Caucus, is a reform-minded legislator who has championed efforts to open-up the council as part of the caucus’ reform agenda.

A majority of councilmembers support widespread rules reforms, according to Citizens Union’s review of campaign pledges made by the candidates for council. Having selected a Speaker, they must now honor their commitments to reform the body as many individual members and most speaker candidates pledged to do.  The reform positions taken by Councilmembers are contained in Citizens Union’s candidate questionnaires or other public documents, such as the “Rules Reform Agenda” developed by the members of the progressive caucus in October 2013.  A majority of members support the following reforms:

  • 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.
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