Council Priorities

The new City Council Speaker doles out some surprising assignments

Asked earlier this month about Dilan's much rumored appointment, Quinn insisted to both the press and tenant lobbyists that nothing was decided. But when his nomination was released on Wednesday, it was accompanied by wholesale changes. Gone from the committee were a trio of stalwart pro-tenant councilmembers, Manhattan's Gail Brewer, Brooklyn's Letitia James, and Queens's Melinda Katz. In their place were two of the council's three Republicans, and the ubiquitous White. The lone bright spot for tenants was the appointment of newly elected councilmember Rosie Mendez from Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Another head-scratcher by Quinn was the designation of Brooklyn's Simcha Felder as head of the Governmental Operations Committee. Under its former chair, Bill Perkins of Harlem, the committee took on everyone from the police commissioner, over civil liberties violations, to the mayor, over diversity in hiring. Those are unlikely targets for Felder, whose Borough Park district is so conservative that he took a bathroom break rather than cast a public ballot for Quinn, whose lesbian status might offend his heavily Orthodox Jewish constituents.

The committee also oversees the public campaign finance board, which has long asked the council to address the nettlesome issue of whether candidates facing nominal opposition should be allowed to receive public matching funds. Those insisting they needed the public's dime to aid their re- election this past year ranged from Brooklyn radical Charles Barron (re-elected with 89 percent of the vote) to Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza (who got 81 percent). This problem doesn't affect Felder, whose donation-rich district filled his coffers with a whopping $287,000—without his even entering the public campaign finance system. But whether that makes Felder, known as a jokester, a free agent on the issue or an easily maneuvered reform foe remains to be seen.

Quinn got credit for extending an olive branch to former challenger Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, retaining him as head of the General Welfare Committee, and making him a new assistant majority leader. Less noticed was her decision to leave other pro–de Blasio figures out in the cold. James, whose most high-profile stance has been her opposition to the massive Atlantic Yard arena project, was shut out altogether in the awarding of committee leadership posts. "I am bloodied but unbossed," James said last week, echoing the late Shirley Chisholm.

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