Council members Dan Garodnick, Jimmy Vacca, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mark Weprin and Annabel Palma met for a first-ever City Council speaker forum last week at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights to discuss their plans if voted to the position, as well as answer some of the concerns from the community.
Weprin, who represents a district in eastern Queens, played up his past experience in the Assembly and City Council and noted his long-time advocacy for, “the single most diverse district in the City of New York.”
“I spend every week of my life bringing diverse people together towards a common goal, and I think the City Council is the most diverse elected official body in the world,” he said. “I think I have the skill set to bring those people together.”
The Bronx's Mark-Viverito said her progressive nature is what separates her from the rest of the candidates.
“I have demonstrated through my trajectory of two terms that I have consistently been vocal and visible on issues that are important to the community in this city,” Mark-Viverito said.
Vacca, also of the Bronx, discussed his career, hard work in the community where he was raised, and road to the City Council.
“I know how to work with people,” Vacca said. “I think I can galvanize the City Council into being a very effective force for good.”
Manhattan representative Garodnick said his very reason for running for City Council office eight years ago in order to “deliver top-notch constituent services,” is in effect the same role he says the speaker should play relative to the other members.
“We need to be able to work together,” Garodnick said. “I have developed a record as a problem solver on many very significant issues, and I have found ways to work with my colleagues to build bridges and deliver positive results.”
Palma, the third council member from the Bronx vying for the position, noted that after growing up in the district she now represents, her fight would focus on the progressive issues she has already advocated for over the years.
“I believe that through those experiences, I will be able, along with my colleagues, to move this city in the direction that it needs to move,” Palma said. “It needs to be done as a collective body.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm hosted the event.
“I’m looking for somebody who is going to provide a more transparent government and a more accountable government,” Dromm said. “It’s important to know where they’re coming from and to know where they stand on issues, which I don’t always get to hear, because I’m not in their district.”
The councilman added that although the people do not vote on the next speaker, it is important that the constituents be involved in the process.
“It is important that they understand the role of the speaker because that has not been explained to them,” he said. “It’s a really powerful position in the city in terms of the budget, and I think a lot of that was accomplished here tonight.”
Joseph McKellar, executive director at Faith in New York, one of the sponsors of the event, said their question for the panel regarding Sandy relief funding was in effort to address the need for policy reform of the public subsidiary processes.
“The general need to increase economic opportunity and decrease the growing racial and economic inequality in our city is very important,” McKellar said. “We think there are lots of ways to do that.”
He added that he hopes the next speaker can work with mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to reform and provide the necessary funding to the community.
“I think that’s going to start with the way the Economic Development Corporation does business,” he said.