Let's Make A Deal:
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Tom Manton and Queens have the power.
Two weeks ago, we tried to give you the lay of the land as the new City
Council tries to get together to organize and select a new Speaker. Since that column, our
phone has been ringing with players from a number of camps, promoting their points of
view. We have tried to cut through some of the political bravado and use some math to
count to 26 a Council majority the number of votes needed to control the
re-organization of the new Council.
It appears the Queens County Democratic Leader Tom Manton will
ultimately lead his delegation to the winner, reaping rewards for councilmembers from
Angel Rodriguez is clearly the post election front-runner for Speaker
as he tries to nail his coalition together. That coalition, according to Brooklyn, centers
around nine-plus votes from their borough and 10-plus from Mantons Queens. With
Brooklyn and Queens together, there are easily enough votes available in the Bronx,
Manhattan and the GOP to reach the magical number of 26.
In spite of Manton emissaries protestations to the contrary,
reliable sources have confirmed that Manton is leaning heavily towards Rodriguez
but the deal is not yet firm with Rodriguez and his Brooklyn Dem Leader Clarence Norman.
In spite of reports circulating by those in the Rodriguez camp, that a well-known
lobbyist/consultant was in the room when Tom and Angel "cut the deal," reliable
sources tell us, "it just aint so." The well-known lobbyist has confirmed
to this paper that he has participated in discussions but also informed us that he was not
present when and if any deal was consummated.
The claim of having his vote by Rodriguez has caused one newly-elected
Queens councilmember to insist to us, "Im never going to vote for Angel."
The anti-Rodriguez sentiment seems to be spreading in the Queens delegation. At least
three other Queens Councilmembers-elect have told this writer that they are against voting
for Rodriguez. Labor, we are told, has lobbied strongly against Rodriguez and the Queens
delegation is encouraging Manton to look elsewhere to find a coalition that will elect a
Speaker and bring home powerful committee chairs for Queens. This of course is accepting
conventional wisdom that the Speaker will be one of the senior members.
Queens has no senior members and therefore welcomes the opportunity to
vie for power again in two years. Expect Manton to leverage the Queens delegation to vote
in a somewhat united front, bringing to Queens powerful committee chairs and other perks.
Word has it that a Queens deal will make David Weprin chairman of the Finance Committee
and Melinda Katz will chair Land Use, with every other loyal member of the delegation
being rewarded with some goodie. The Bronxs Ollie Koppell, who we reported is
expected to vote with team Queens, likewise can expect to be rewarded.
Although, Rodriguez is clearly, at this moment, the front-runner,
political glue has been known to become undone. With lots of time until the Speaker vote,
who else can bring this coalition together?
If its not Rodrigez, it likely wont be someone from
Brooklyn hes clearly got the largest block and County Leader support. If
its not a freshman, it cant be someone from Queens. That would eliminate the
two largest delegations with the greatest ability to vote as blocks. Were told, as
we reported, that Manton will not at this a time do a deal with the Bronx. Ergo, look to
Both Phil Reed and Bill Perkins, African American senior members of the
Manhattan delegation, have been mentioned, but seem no closer than they were when we
suggested that each only had his own vote.
That brings us back to Gifford Miller, the guy who has been effectively
working for the job since he was elected to the Council back in Jan. 1996. Hes got
smarts, at least five votes from Manhattan, lots of friends and many of them in the Queens
delegation. Hes played the game well and actively campaigned and raised funds on
behalf of many of the new councilmembers. Hes been in ongoing talks with Queens
members and is expected to reach out to Manton and major players in the Brooklyn
delegation to try to put it all together.
Hell need his County Leader Denny Farrell whose new
appointment as State Demcratic Chair may just add some strength to the heretofore
unimpressive leadership role to bring in the rest of his borough. Hell need
Manton and his 10-13 members from Queens (we hope and expect the FDC Jennings group
to hear endorsement of their principals by the Queens delegation and thus join the
new coalition); Ollie Koppell, perhaps, the Bronxs Foster, plus Queens Republican
Dennis Gallagher and a couple of his GOP colleagues may be available to bring the magic
total to 26 or more. Up to eight Brooklyn members can possibly be picked off if and when
the Rodriguez effort cannot be resussitated.
The bottom line, Tom Manton and Queens make the next Speaker. If Manton
goes the way hes leaning and can deliver the votes to Angel Rodriguez, Queens gets
rewarded. If he goes the way the new Queens councilmembers- elect seem to prefer, Giff
Miller gets the job and Queens gets rewarded.
Either way, Tom Manton and Queens have the power.
January 9 the date.
Sit back, relax and stay tuned.
Dont stay seated too long. Just as we were going to bed with this
column, we got a call from an old friend a player in Albany and City Hall.
He was calling on other business, but I couldnt resist asking his
take on the Speaker game.
"Its up to Manton," he said.
I explained that I had just written that and was set to go to press
"Only its not Angel and its not Miller," my
long-time political player said.
"If its Mantons call, hell take one of his boys
he can get elected."
"David Weprin?" I asked and answered as Mr. Politically
On July 5 of this year, I wrote:
"His style is more of the quiet, effective negotiator than the
flamboyant politician. He knows how to achieve his end without making enemies.
"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.
"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 Council."
Mr. Astute was pretty sure.
Government For The
Last week, the Trib reported that all 14 of its
councilmembers-elect had committed to the Government Access and Accountability Pledge
created by the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE).
The pledge, according to the group-founder Bryan Pu-Folkes, was
designed to make all council members more accessible and sensitive to the needs of
constituents, including the new immigrant community. If followed, Council members would
hold bi-annual town hall meetings with interpreters as needed, mail annual performance
surveys and district reports to constituents.
As the largest newspaper in the most diverse county in the nation and
as a strong advocate for open government and participatory democracy, the Tribune
during its interviews of Council candidates raised the "pledge" question and
got candidates to focus on Pu-Folkes efforts.
As reported in last weeks Trib, while Queens has 14
of 14 members-elect pledged to the effort, Brooklyn has three of its 16, the other
boroughs results were worse. Of the Council members-to-be, the Bronx had 1 of 8, Manhattan
1 of 10, and Staten Island none of their three members-elect.
Pu-Folkes credited the Tribune with the unanimous support
by the boroughs delegation, "We are grateful the paper thought the cause was so
important," he said.
We werent satisfied and challenged Pu-Folkes and his new press
representative Anat Jacobson to contact every member-elect for an answer. We believe
opening up government is an obligation of the press as well as the people.
On Friday, we reached out for the two leading candidates for Speaker of
the Council and faxed their offices copies of the Government Access and Accountability
Pledge and asked them to react. By Saturday, we were informed that Gifford Miller had
signed the pledge. We await Angel Rodriguezs response.
We salute Giff and the 14 Queens members for supporting the effort to
open up the process of government.
As we said during the campaign, this new Council can make us proud.
Queens Libraries Need A
I dont know Gary Strong well met him once, maybe twice. He
is responsible for the largest library system in the country Queens. Serving a
population of more than two million in the most ethnically-diverse county in the United
States, with 16.8 million items in circulation this year, the Queens Borough Library has
the highest circulation of any public library system in the country.
Late last week, we received a statement from Strong announcing serious
cuts in library service as a response to budget cuts and the duty to be a "partner in
All Queens Libraries except the Central Library (Jamaica), Flushing and
Jackson Heights Branch will scale back seven-day a week service, beginning Sunday, Nov.
25. The announcement indicated more cuts are expected.
"We have been challenged as New Yorkers and Americans," said
Strong, "in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events. In the effort to respond to our
call to be a partner in the recovery, we will continue to assess where we will have to
make adjustments in our workplan."
Citing a 15 percent cutback in City funding, Strong said, "a
reduction of this magnitude requires serious and severe changes."
Published reports indicated that about 50 teenagers in the "Teen
Net Mentors" program hired to help adults with computer problems will lose their part
The news is bad. The decision, whether necessary or not, is bad. The
cutting back of library funds is bad. Trying to ease the pain by calling it patriotic,
This is the first cut in government service that we have been informed
of library hours, teenage computer mentors.
No one let us know that they had cut some waste, fat or favorite little
program but our kids, and our minds must take the first hit. Anyone remember
"reading is fun-damental" or however it goes?
Ill bet somewhere in this City there is a Pipe and Drum Corp that
is getting City money the Irish need not send me letters. There are community
groups, Im certain, receiving member item grants paid for with City funds who
must be more dispensible than library hours. Gimme a break, libraries should not be the
first to go.
Come on Mr. Mayor, City Council, Mr. Comptroller, look at City
spending. Is there anything else that can go first or instead?
And to Library Director Gary Strong, we recognize you dont
control the budget. But when the City slashes it and you slash the library hours, we
dont expect you to cite patriotism.
We demand you work for alternative funding, fight City cutbacks and
advocate for our libraries by raising a strong voice.
America is great because of our minds not because of our patriotism.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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