"It is true that I have an attendance record of close to 70 percent," said Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton). "I'm not happy about it, but I'm not going to hide from the truth."
Sanders had an attendance rate of 67 percent over the 2002 and 2003 calendar years, just 5 percent behind Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Brooklyn), who has the city's worst attendance record, according to the New York Post, which tracked the members' performance.
She showed up at scheduled council and committee meetings just 61 percent of the time over the past two years, a Council spokesman said.
Sanders, who took office in January 2002, said there were factors that kept him from making the Council meetings, including the illness and death of his mother early last summer.
"Yes, it must be remembered and taken into account that I was dealing with the passing of my mother," he said. "But the people of the 31st Councilmanic District deserve more."
Many City Hall hearings and meetings also conflicted with activities and forums in the southeast Queens community, forcing him to pick one venue over the other, he said.
"I am the councilman of a southeast Queens community," Sanders said. "I am not the councilman for Manhattan. If I had to choose between going to Manhattan and being in the district, I'm staying in the district."
And while Sanders agrees that attendance at stated Council meetings is important, he also hopes he will be judged on the work he is doing for his community and not just how many hearings he went to, he said.
"Attendance, while worthy, is not the only measure of judging a councilman," he said. "It's not simply 'are you a bump on a log in your office,' but what you have brought home."
Sanders cited the agreement with the Port Authority released last week that could allow Queens to get up to $100 million for capital projects as a part of the renegotiated leases at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. The Port Authority initially offered $50 million over a 10-year period, but Sanders and Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona) called the deal into question and discussions led the agency to say it could go as high as $100 million for Queens projects.
"There are others who have a far better attendance record but who don't have these things to show for it," he said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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