Sal Albanese Duels Bill de Blasio Over Quinn’s Member Items Mishap


How do you create more mayoral drama? Start fighting over who’s better at dealing with previous mayoral drama.

Yesterday, we reported on the Halloran/Smith scandal’s foray into the electoral spectrum. News swirled around the fact that Councilman Dan Holleran had planned to use Council/taxpayers’ funds to get in on state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s brigging scheme. And who oversees those funds? None other than City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

So her rivals took the floor to take shots at her. Bill Thompson called the scandal an outgrowth of shitty oversight, and Bill de Blasio said this would’ve never happened had Quinn passed reform measures. The backlash arose from a New York Times profile of Quinn this week, in which she was reportedly caught handling member items like chess pieces in one big political game.

For clarity, member items are the cash flow amounts given to councilmembers so they can lavish their districts’ organizations with funds. And this control-by-speaker is a quasi-parliamentary power given to the speaker, and in Britain it’s commonplace strategy.

Out of that story, rivals Sal Albanese and Bill de Blasio have taken it upon themselves to direct the mud-slinging at each other in an attempt to distinguish to voters who’s the best person to deal with council corruption.

If the past week is any indication, it seems like this mayoral race will give us a new drama to talk about on a daily basis.

Yesterday, Quinn came out to defend member items at a press conference: “I do not think this is a reason to conclude that member items should not be given.” Her argument was pretty straightforward: OK, once in a while they get out of hand, but that doesn’t mean we need to get rid of them altogether.

During Quinn’s press conference, de Blasio held one of his own, where he declared his newfound support for a ban on member items, calling for an end to the speaker controlling discretionary funds for the council–a privilege with a murky past in city politics.

In a response via press release, Albanese made the same argument that’s been tossed at Quinn this week for her recent, newfound support for the paid sick days bill; the natural “I’ve been saying that for years” route:

“In his latest act of political theater, Broadway Bill de Blasio finally came around to a position that real reformers have held for decades: we must ban member items. Better late than never, Bill!”

And we thought the Republicans would be the dramatic queens in this election.