The City Council is a big fish that stinks from the head down — or so says would-be Councilman David Pechefsky, a Green Party candidate challenging Democratic front-runner Brad Lander to represent Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and parts of Cobble Hill and Gowanus.
In the opening salvo of the campaign — days after Lander handily won the Democratic primary in what is typically tantamount to election in the heavily liberal district — Pechefsky accused Lander of being too cosy with the party establishment, including its putative leader, Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).
So we asked Pechefsky, Lander and Republican candidate Joe Nardiello what they thought of Quinn’s leadership and the need for reform.
And by the way, election day is Nov. 3.
Brad Lander, Democrat
The central issue in the race is how the next councilman can deliver real results on issues that matter: stronger public schools, livable neighborhoods, affordable housing, good jobs, small businesses and a more sustainable city. I believe it would be a mistake for a candidate to make a public commitment regarding the Council speakership before being elected. I have, in the past, criticized Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg when I thought they were wrong (such as on the term limit [extension], and several rezoning and development actions), and I won’t hestitate to do so again. But I have also worked with them (such as on affordable housing and sustainability initiatives). To address the needs and aspirations of so many people in our neighborhoods, the next councilman will need to be able both to work with the Council leadership and the next mayoral administration, and to hold them accountable. I also plan to work for an ambitious array of reforms, which I have laid out in detail at www.bradlander.com.
Joe Nardiello, Republican
Consideration of the Council Speaker vote shouldn’t be a rush to judgment. I was angered about the vote against our term-limits referendum, but I don’t vote by spite, and would need a clear review of other candidates’ credentials vying for this significant office. Speaker Quinn’s decision to side with our mayor on the public smoking ban, calorie counting, and reducing the Public Advocate’s budget actually showed good sense for our city. … Backlash from councilmembers should be avoided, as reckless partisanship/gamesmanship may bring someone without true merit. With our future at stake, the city needs all the expertise it can summon with next year’s budget. In fact, I have 25 years of understanding profit/loss and maximizing budgets in the corporate sector, of review, management and discussion, planning and examining throughout the process. There are tough choices ahead, and raising taxes and fees — like the street parking fee that my opposing candidates endorse — is simply absurd. We only hurt ourselves by voting for anything other than common sense and ability — and both Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Quinn have proven aptitude and non-partisan judgment.
David Pechefsky, Green
I will not support a Speaker who voted to overturn term limits. But regardless of who is Speaker, without the reforms I have advocated, including reform of the committee structure, reform in the hiring and retention of staff, and reform of the member item system and budget process as a whole, the Council will continue to inadequately fulfill its responsibility as a counterweight to the mayor. A councilmember who votes for Speaker Quinn has little credibility on the term limits issue and therefore on commitment to reform more generally. It would also call into question that Councilmember’s commitment and ability to stand up to the mayor on such issues as Atlantic Yards and the Gowanus Canal. If Brad Lander or any other candidate believes that voting for Chris Quinn is the best option despite her role on terms limits, they need to publicly state why and what commitments they hope to extract from her regarding issues of importance to their district. A more internally democratic Council will be inconvenient for the mayor, but will strengthen the council as an institution. Before asking what is the downside to reform, you need to ask why the current system is prone to inertia, mismanagement, and corruption.
©2009 Community News Group