Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said there is no “rhyme or reason” for how the City Council allocates millions of dollars in “member items,” and that rich neighborhoods often get more money than poorer communities.
There is “no statistical relationship between a district’s need and it’s member allocation,” Stringer said in a conference call this afternoon when his office released a review of data from the last four year.
The Manhattan Borough President said his staff look at nine of the country’s largest cities and that none of them distribute as much money in as “arbitrary” manner.
Stringer said the current “political process” for distributing the information has a “chilling effect,” preventing rank and file members of the City Council from opposing the speaker, Christine Quinn. When asked, Stringer did not cite a specific example of a member kowtowing to Quinn in exchange for member items — or losing out on money for being outspoken.
The New York Post recently reported that Astoria Democrat Peter Vallone Jr. took a hit in member items for criticizing Quinn’s proposal to rename a bridge after the former mayor Ed Koch.
Quinn and Stringer are both Manhattan Democrats who are likely to face each other in the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor.
Stringer pointed to the state’s capital as an example of where such reform of discretionary spending succeeded. “Let’s not fall behind Albany and Andrew Cuomo,” Stringer said, referring to the state’s freshman — and popular — Democratic governor.
The study calls for replacing the discretionary distribution of funds — which are spelled out in the city budget and voted on by the 51-member City Council as part of the budget — with a need’s based distribution, based a district’s poverty level.
Stringer said he didn’t want to make the debate personal by singling out specific lawmakers. “I want to elevate this debate” he said, and that he had “no regrets” about supporting Quinn for reelection to her Council seat in 2009.