Over the last few weeks, various candidates looking to be the new City Council Speaker have participated in forums, giving the public an idea of where they stand on a number of issues. The discussions are healthy and we commend these Councilmembers for participating, opening up a process that is usually closed to the public.
The public will not have a hand in choosing the next Speaker, nor will voters be asked to go to the ballot box again to choose. No, this selection will be made by the Democratic County leaders with the final selection made by our Mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio.
Bill de Blasio has a good idea of who he would like to have as the leader of the City Council. No doubt he would like to have someone who would happily help push his progressive agenda through the Council. The City Council, however, needs a leader who will be a counter-weight in any deliberations on the budget and legislative agendas.
While we respect de Blasio’s concern and involvement in the process, we believe that it would better serve the interests of the City to have a City Council Speaker be someone who can serve as a counter-weight to the City’s chief executive. Diversity and dialogue make for a better executive branch, as well as a competitive legislative organ.
With that in mind, there is one candidate for the position who we believe presents the strongest case for new leadership within the City Council.
Having served in the City Council and the State Assembly, Mark Weprin has tremendous knowledge of the legislative issues and would provide great insight as City Council Speaker. Instead of serving as a creature of an ideological faction within the City Council, we believe that Weprin represents a Speaker who would achieve balance by being an honest broker.
Weprin was one of the first City Council members to jump on board with the Participatory Budgeting process, which allowed his constituents to have a say in where City Council funds are spent, another issue for which we commend him. Clearly, he is a legislator and a leader who will not only listen, but would seek advice and counsel from his colleagues – from the far left to the far right.
In a city as diverse as we are, government governs best from the middle.