It took a strong woman to agree to give up some of her power in the City Council.

Last month, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito made good on her promise to overhaul some of the Council’s practices and to increase transparency about the body’s activities.

She led the Council in passing a reform package that allocates funds for nonprofits in members’ districts more fairly. Her support of the move was in striking contrast to the stance of her predecessor, Christine Quinn, who used the so-called discretionary funds as a reward-and-punishment tool to keep members in line.

Some districts like northeast Queens got short shrift on funds for its nonprofits when Tony Avella was a councilman because he often refused to play the game and under Dan Halloran, a token Republican in the Democrats’ house.

And then there was outright retribution when Quinn slapped down Astoria Councilman Peter Vallone, who opposed renaming the Queensborough Bridge for former Mayor Ed Koch. His member items were slashed by 40 percent and the $6 million Vallone Scholarship, named for his father, was eliminated.

For some small nonprofits in Queens, this annual influx of taxpayer funds is a question of life or death. Even a small distribution of several thousand dollars can save a modest program that helps people living on the edge.

Under the new reforms the funds will be distributed equally to each Council member or, in some cases, given a slight boost in districts with greater needs. That allocation will be based on a public formula.

The East Harlem speaker also relinquished her right to parcel out all of the Council’s member items and will be responsible for handing out no more than half.

Mark-Viverito signed on as a progressive and she’s a breath of fresh air here in Queens, where we have former Councilman Halloran on trial in White Plains on charges of promising to take $20,000 from his member items to finance a political bribery scheme.

He even bragged that he could wrangle a larger chunk of public dollars to commit more mischief, according to the indictment.

It’s encouraging to see a political leader who has enough confidence in herself to do the right thing and end some of the political maneuvering that elevated self-interest above basic democracy.

Related Stories
Mayor announces new program to expand health care coverage for New Yorkers
Mayor announces new program to expand health care coverage for New Yorkers
Gianaris meets with Seattle legislators to discuss what the Amazon deal could mean for Long Island City
Gianaris meets with Seattle legislators to discuss what the Amazon deal could mean for Long Island City


Skip to toolbar