Once again, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has removed the veil of her Manhattan liberal independent reformer image to reveal that she is a seasoned Democratic Party machine leader. To the victor goes the spoils is practiced by Quinn just like former Council Speakers Gifford Miller, Peter Vallone Senior and the late Tom Cuite of Brooklyn.
On January 18, 2010, Speaker Quinn announced her appointments of various council committee chairpersons. Councilmembers loyal to their respective county organizations (the ones that endorsed her candidacy for speaker) were rewarded with salary increases known as lulus ranging from $4,000 to $28,000 to chair council committees. These were renewed once again in January 2011. The average salary for a New Yorker is $41,000 per year. Every councilmember has a base salary of $112,500 plus bonuses, for a part-time job.
She is never shy around a camera or microphone. This year she will once again quietly issued checks for 50% of each councilmembers annual awarded lulus of between $4,000 to $28,000 per year on top of a $112,000 base salary to her loyal members for chairing a council committee or subcommittee. The base salary plus lulu is three times what an average constituent earns for a job officially classified as part time. Hard working municipal civil servant employees and most ordinary New Yorkers would never see such treats from their respective employers.
Under Speaker Quinn’s reign, it continues to be the usual political quid pro quo with councilmembers. Vote as instructed by the speaker and members will continue to receive the perks of office. These include the salary bonuses for chairing council committees, extra cash for local district offices, staff and mailings along with your share of several hundred million dollars available for funding local neighborhood pork-barrel projects to grease the wheels of re-election.
Councilmembers have staff to drive them around town and private parking privileges at City Hall. How many ever considered using mass transit for commuting to work like millions of their constituents do daily? Do any councilmembers have a MetroCard and use it regularly? Check out the City Hall parking lot when the council is in session and see. Quinn continues the tradition of allocating millions of dollars in member item pork barrel projects to her council favorites.
With 8% of New Yorkers still out of work, another 7% who have given up looking along with many others working part time and/or for minimum wage, there are many public minded citizens besides the current 51 Council members with the knowledge and wisdom to perform their jobs at a fraction of the cost. Many would gladly serve and show up for work full time without the perks of office for $112,000 per year minus all the traditional lulus or other benefits ordinary citizens can only dream about.
There is a clear appearance of a serious conflict of interest with Quinn running for mayor in 2013. Will she be rewarding those loyal councilmembers with lulus in exchange for their support of her mayoral campaign? Ditto when Quinn will be issuing the remaining 50% balance of lulus in July 2013.
This conflict of interest is even worse when the new City municipal budget is adopted on July 1, 2013. Will Quinn “steer” the bulk of several hundred million dollars worth of member item pork barrel projects she controls to the same loyal councilmembers and recipients of earmarks who by coincidence will be supporting her in the Democratic mayoral primary?
All of these lulus and member item pork barrel projects are paid by your hard earned tax dollars. The five county Democratic political bosses don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, gay or straight, man or woman — just play ball like Speaker Quinn and you’re welcome to the smoke-filled clubhouse back rooms!
Just like past Speakers Miller and Vallone, Senior, Speaker Quinn believes she is qualified to become mayor. On Primary Day, the voters may tell Quinn no thanks just like they did for Miller and Vallone.