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Brooklyn’s In the House: New Committee Posts For Pols

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There was more crowing than a henhouse full of roosters at dawn. And when the sun finally rose last week on City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s reorganization of the Council Committee leadership positions, the Brooklyn delegation fared well. “I’m thrilled for Brooklyn and myself. Brooklyn is most definitely in the house,” said Councilmember Lew Fidler. “We have 16 [council] members and have 12 standing committee chairs, along with two subcommittee chairs, two members on Council leadership team and three on the steering team,” he added. Fidler has good reason to wax eloquently about Quinn’s selections, as both he and Bill de Blasio were named co-Assistant Majority Leaders in the new Council. The position comes along with a $15,000 stipend above a Council member’s regular salary of $90,000 annually. Fidler also retained his chairmanship of the Youth Services Committee, and de Blasio retains his chairmanship of the General Welfare Committee. Being named chair of a committee comes with a $10,000 stipend. However, Fidler said that he and de Blasio are not eligible for the extra stipend as Council rules do not allow members to take two stipends. “That’s not what the story is about. It’s not about the money,” said Fidler, allowing the extra cash will come in handy, as he has one child in college and another two years away from going to college. The naming of Fidler and de Blasio in Council leadership positions comes after the two both vied for the speaker position. Ultimately, de Blasio became Quinn’s chief opposition for the Speaker job to replace term-limited Gifford Miller. Fidler, along with seven other borough council members, reportedly gave their vote to recently named new Kings County Democratic boss Vito Lopez. Lopez in turn brokered the deal with Quinn whereby Brooklyn wound up with so many chairs. While de Blasio did not return calls on his new position, one council insider remarked, “It is unprecedented for the main rival [to Quinn] to do so well. Keeping your committee, adding a leadership post, and protecting your allies is a good second best.” Two other interesting Brooklyn chairs named was Simcha Felder as chair of the Government Operations Committee and Charles Barron retaining his chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee. Felder, although supportive of Quinn, did not vote for her as speaker because her sexual orientation conflicted with Fidler’s Orthodox Jewish religious views, sources said. Barron abstained from the speaker vote because he didn’t agree with the political process of utilizing county party leaders in selecting the speaker. Other winners in the highly political process of naming chairs include Michael Nelson, who moved from chairing the Senior Center subcommittee under Miller to chairing the Waterfront Committee. However, some council insiders said that Nelson’s new position has no teeth in its actual oversight, and noted his actual seating in the council was moved back. Additional winners include David Yassky, Erik Martin Dilan and Sara Gonzalez, all of whom had no chairs under Miller. Yassky now heads the Small Business Committee, Dilan the Housing Committee and Gonzalez the Juvenile Justice Committee. Also getting a chair was Vincent Gentile, who now chairs the Libraries Subcommittee. All subcommittee chairs get a $4,000 stipend. Yvette Clarke moved from chairing the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee to heading the Contracts Committee. Retaining their chairs were Domenic Recchia of the Cultural Committee, Kendall Stewart of the Immigration Committee and Al Vann of the Community Development Committee. Enjoying his role as a powerbroker, Lopez noted that four years ago when Miller was the speaker, Brooklyn received four or five committee chairs and nothing else. “This is a tremendous improvement and I’m very proud of the results. We can all be proud in the borough,” said Lopez. Lopez explained he reached out to every borough delegation member in the council asking if they wanted his help in securing assignments. “Some took advantage of that and I advocated with the Speaker’s office for many of these individuals. Four years ago this was not possible,” he said. Lopez, who replaced former Assembly member and now convicted felon Clarence Norman as Kings County Democratic boss, said helping council members get leadership positions and assignments was one of his goals after becoming county leader. “I also worked hard to bring transparency in the [Kings County Democratic Party] finances, and convened and fully operated a committee to review the manner in which we pick judges in the borough,” said Lopez.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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