By Kelsey Durham
The City Council officially adopted a detailed reform package earlier this month that includes changes to the way funds are distributed to all members for non-profits in their districts by leveling the playing field.
The legislation, passed May 14, also calls for increased transparency in other Council activities.
Former Council Speaker Christine Quinn often came under fire during her tenure for handing out Council funds to district representatives based on a system of rewards and punishments. These are known as member items or discretionary funds.
The new reform package states that “all such funds shall be distributed between and among sponsoring Council members for allocation pursuant to a publicly disclosed formula that allocates funds either equally among members or based upon publicly available data about differences between districts.” Poorer districts with greater needs could qualify for a slight increase in funds.
The legislation also requires that the Council speaker be responsible for allocating no more than half of all Council funds.
Other reforms included in the bill are fair consideration of legislation, more public engagement, enhanced empowerment of committees and committee chairs, creation of a dedicated legislative drafting unit and creation of a commission to examine stipends and compensation.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said after the bill was introduced that the reform will create a more responsive legislative force that can better serve the needs of the city and its residents.
“Our reforms will make the Council more democratic and will allow our body to function more efficiently,” she said.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) had named discretionary funding reform as one of his top priorities after taking office, saying he represents a district in northeast Queens that has been at the bottom of the barrel in Council funding for many years.
He praised the reform package as a “much-needed” change and thanked Mark-Viverito and his other Council colleagues for working to get the legislation passed.
“I am a firm believer in operating with transparency, equality and inclusivity,” Vallone said. “The rules reforms highlighted in this proposal, particularly those regarding member items and discretionary funding transparency, will grant New Yorkers a greater degree of engagement and awareness of the City Council’s actions and allow us Council members to better serve our respective districts.”
The rules reform went into effect immediately after the legislation was adopted.
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.