The Boss Is Back

Miller Lets Clubhouse Control Council, Shortchanges Merit and Minorities

Another black Speaker candidate from Manhattan, Bill Perkins, acknowledged that chairing the Governmental Operations Committee was "not my first choice," meaning that even though he brought six votes to Miller at a decisive moment, he wound up on the short end of the stick. Brooklyn's Charles Barron, who heads the Higher Education Committee, said Miller "didn't go far enough" in minority appointments, and the Lower East Side's Margarita Lopez conceded: "Should more people of color get committee chairs? Yes." Outsiders like Foster, of course, are more critical: "The committees that really have power don't have blacks and Latinos as chairs."

The locked-out borough is Brooklyn, whose 16-member delegation is the council's largest. Only five members got committee chairs, down from eight under Vallone, while another five got mostly inconsequential subcommittees. The borough even lost the Finance Committee, which Herb Berman skillfully used to Brooklyn's benefit for many years. Bill DiBlasio, the Park Slope councilman who helped engineer Perkins's switch to Miller, got General Welfare, and Lou Fidler got Youth Services, the two most important Brooklyn appointments.

Every one of a half dozen councilmembers from the borough contacted by the Voice—except DiBlasio—said Brooklyn had been hurt by Miller's retributive notion of justice. Brooklyn party leader Clarence Norman, of course, backed Rodriguez, indicating what happens to your borough in Miller's council if you've got the wrong boss.

With merit, minorities, and Brooklyn already casualties of the month-old Miller regime, it's worth remembering that Vallone and Berman ran for citywide office last year, actively opposed by their respective county leaders. A council leadership born in the Astoria and Canarsie clubhouses of a bygone machine era may prove over time to be more independent than the fresh-faced rule of a modern-day east side reformer.

Research assistance: Peter Bailey, Martine Guerrier, Jeff Herman, Jess Wisloski

Related Articles:

"A Question of Candor: New Council Speaker Misled Campaign Finance Officials, Ducked Limits" by Wayne Barrett

"Miller Time: How Internecine Minority Politics Picked the Speaker" by Wayne Barrett

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