David Weprin &
Speaking Of Speakers
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
For the past several months, Ive been
chatting with the folks who hope to lead New York City starting in 2002, when term limits
present exciting opportunities for the citys future.
& David Weprin
photo: Tamara Hartman
During the spring, we met at our
office with all four Dem candidates for mayor, and have started interviewing the
comptroller and public advocate candidates. Its been a marvelous trip.
As I meet the wannabes for citiwide offices
and council, I am more convinced that city
government tomorrow will be more responsive to the people, more independent in vote and
action, more committed to task and more dedicated to purpose than the Council is today or
has ever been.
Ill probably keep applauding the
positive impact of term limits (coupled with campaign public matching funds) while
repeating Im not a convert in support of term limits. However, its effect and impact
is wonderful for the political process, government, the people and the city.
The future city will be led by the three
citywide elected officials and the new council, where 35 of the 51 members will be newly
elected. Their leader, the speaker, will be a junior partner to the mayor in bringing
Since the new charter (under court
direction) abolished the Board of Estimate, the Council has increased in importance and
power. A new council with nearly 70 percent of its member newly elected will allow the
legislative body to form a new personality and role. Look for the younger (read newer)
members to learn from the senior members but not necessarily follow them. A new class of
35 with some cohesiveness would be in control and very well might seek to
select one of its own as speaker, bypassing the traditional weight of seniority.
In addition to the new class/old class
split, leadership in the overwhelmingly Democratic Council will be impacted by county Dem
organizations and perhaps ethnic alliances. Council members and council candidates are
already out there campaigning for the bodys top slot. Perhaps its a bit early
because alliances made today might fall victim to quick deals cut after a new mayor is
Brooklyn has three speaker wannabes: Angel
Rodriguez (Hispanic) and Tracy Boyland (African American) are both of the council class of
98 and veteran legislator seeking election to the council; and there is African
American Al Vann. Brooklyn Dem County leader Clarence Norman is not expected to be able to
keep the largest delegation united, no matter which of the three he backs, presenting a
major roadblock for any of Kings Countys hopefuls.
African American Bill Perkins (98)
and Giff Miller (white, 96) both from Manhattan, where Dem Leader Denny Farrell
rarely if ever attempts to keep the diverse borough united also come to the table without
a solid block.
Ollie Koeppel (white) from the Bronx is
hoping to win a council seat and the speakership based on his longtime service in a
variety of positions. However, Koeppels dream will be unfulfilled since he
doesnt even have the support of his own county organization and its leader Roberto
Island still part of NYC is barely a player.
And Queens . . . the only borough to have
all new members in this election and the one delegation that has demonstrated an ability
to vote as a block . . . has yet to solidify behind anyone.
With fourteen new council members, what
will the Queens Dem organization and the new Queens council members look for in selecting
which of its members (if any) to back for speaker? Certainly if the delegation sticks
together and Tom Manton and/or a Queens homeboy mayor aligns with another borough, the
Queens candidate would look good.
Everyone would want competence: experience,
including a depth of knowledge of government, fiscal responsibility and an ability to work
with people. County leader Tom Manton the likely deal maker would want
loyalty: an ability to work with the person. And naturally, the person has to be a winner
if you dont get elected to the council, you cant be the speaker.
In Queens, three such people quickly come
to mind: Peter Vallone, Jr., Melinda Katz and David Weprin.
All three have both primary and general
elections ahead of them, but all three will easily walk over the opposition not to
discourage others who are running, but there is no doubt that each will win and win big.
Pete, Jr. was raised at the knee of Pete,
Sr., a council member since 1974 and speaker since 1986. Pete Jr. has been involved and
has developed his own political persona leading his communitys fight against power
plant proliferation. Pete has what it takes to succeed his father. But the city and the
new council arent ready for the Speakership to be passed via bloodline. Furthermore,
Pete, Jr.s political rabbi will either be mayor making the council leery of
too much power in one political family or a loser, lacking the clout to call in the
Melinda Katz, former assemblywoman,
Democratic district leader, protégé to Alan Hevesi and major hoohah in the
administration of Queens Borough Hall is another outstanding possibility whose political
lineage is, in this case, a handicap. Hevesi, her chief political rabbi, like Vallone,
will either be mayor or a loser and therefore Melinda, like Pete, Jr., will serve in the
council but not likely be a viable speaker candidate.
Then there is David Weprin: Democratic
district leader, former state deputy commissioner of banking, older brother of Assemblyman
Mark and son of the late Assembly Speaker Saul. The astute politician who learned the game
from his father has already scored big in the campaign season.
First, Dem County Leader Tom Manton used a
judgeship to convince Bernice Siegel not to challenge Weprin. Then, when challenged in the
primary only by ethnic newcomer J.D. Thakeral and in the general election by Republican
Phil Sica who is in it to lose, rather than take it east this summer, Weprin gears up for
a full fledged campaign. The guy, who is a shoe-in, is running hard.
Hes raising and spending money
hell max out under finance rules; hes opening a headquarters; hes taking
time off from his law practice; hes attending debates, candidate nights, and any
dinner where theres a camera; and he is
working the press.
David and I lunched last Friday at Joe
Francos beautiful Caffe on the Green. I introduced Joe and David. Joe immediately
acknowledged knowing who David was. Family depth and hard work does pay dividends.
Over salad, David shared his on- target
political analysis and realistic attitude toward making government work. As the main
course was served, we got down to the nitty gritty.
David had left a very lucrative position as
an investment banker and opted to practice law and run for council taking a deep cut in
After quipping, that it must be in the familys defective genes, David
shared his enthusiasm.
With a new mayor, comptroller, public
advocate and 35 new council members, Weprin explained, it will be challenging
and exciting. We can make a difference. David, although not a devotee of term
limits, acknowledges that he likely wouldnt have chosen the new career path if term
limits had not opened up the city.
He is shrewd, ready to take the correct
independent stance while spinning it to fit within the system. Certainly, he
explained, it is wrong to spend public funds for campaign purposes, but would
not take on any abusers indicating, There is often a proper reason for such
His number one issue,
education, rings true in his district and citywide. His style is more of the
quiet, effective negotiator than the flamboyant politician. He knows how to achieve his
end without making enemies.
Hes able to sit on the fence without
alienating both sides. He recognized that there were clearly two valid sides
to the McLaughlin Park bathroom controversy that plagued his district earlier in the year.
Rejecting terms like racism, Weprin expressed the need for quiet understanding
and dialogue to solve sticky problems.
His network is based on relationships built
by himself, his father and brother. Hes established his worthiness with Dem leader
Manton. His family assembly network will certainly not hurt him.
I found him warmer and friendlier than his
reputation. I enjoyed lunch. I enjoyed David. His insight into politics, his mature
approach to government, his understanding of what makes the system run will make David
Weprin a force to reckon with in the next council.
For those who play the game, put David
Weprin on your short list of those who might be the next speaker of the New York City
Shame On Speaker Vallone
Spending City $ To Run For Mayor
Weve had it!
Years of public service does not entitle
you to spend public money to run for mayor.
The very same mayoral candidate who showed
up at our office on a campaign stop, with a fistful of New York City paid council
staffers, continues to utilize city funds to write, print and mail material that is
blatantly designed to further his mayoral election campaign.
This mailer, taking credit for keeping the
streets safe, is filled with his name and picture. It seems the Speaker believes he
single-handedly solved the public safety problem and has the right to spend your money to
deliver that message in the middle of a mayoral campaign.
Vallone, who has been presented as a highly
moral man, has resorted to the most abusive of practices of public officials he is
using public money for personal gain.
Shame on you Peter!
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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