The City Council’s Progressive Caucus does not have enough votes to select the next Council speaker outright. But members claim to have the largest bloc of votes and they already have an agenda. Courtney Gross filed the following report.
The City Council’s progressive caucus argues its involvement in the speaker’s race goes beyond politics.
It’s about policy.
“We feel strongly that the speaker’s race should not be an insider’s game dominated by political horse-trading. It should be about the issues that affect everyday New Yorkers,” said Councilman-elect Ritchie Torres of the Bronx.
If it’s successful in picking the next speaker, members of the caucus say legislation to create a municipal ID or a city minimum wage are at the top of the agenda.
“That’s what’s really important to me and so important to all of us. We wouldn’t be doing this unless we were fighting for real things,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens.
For example, they argue, expanding the city’s living wage and sick leave laws to cover more people.
“It left out some New Yorkers working in smaller businesses, manufacturing workers should definitely be included. We would like to see the bill expanded so all New Yorkers have a right to paid sick time,” said Sherry Leiwant of A Better Balance.
It’s an identical agenda to some of the loudest voices in labor, including unions like 32BJ, which spent thousands of dollars on mailers in the fall to get some of these progressive caucus members elected.
Now they are working hand in hand to select a new speaker.
“Many of them have been involved in helping us get elected and I think they’ve long had a rightful place in the electoral process, but right now I think they’re supporters,” said Van Bramer.
“Our expectation is that it’s not going to be like a rubber stamp and things move forward. Everything has to go through a legislative process. Things need to be debated. There is going to be opportunity for both sides to be heard,” said Javier Valdes of Make the Road NY.
“If there are progressive issues, at least they should come to a vote and be aired on the floor of the City Council and I think that’s what the progressive caucus is trying to do here,” said Leiwant.
Members of the progressive caucus argue they are opening up the process of selecting the next Council speaker, making it more transparent. NY1 requested to sit in on one of these caucus meetings, members of the progressive caucus declined.
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