Christine Quinn’s Collaborative Approach

christine quinn 11 Christine Quinns Collaborative ApproachOne of the advantages of being a legislator and running for higher office–and especially being a legislative leader who runs for higher office–is that you have a network of allies  in far flung corners of the area you help to represent, who can organize on your behalf in their home districts.

In other words, if you are say, the Speaker of the City Council, and you represent (to pick a neighborhood at random) Chelsea, you have 50 allies spread throughout the city, each of whom–since they won election in their own right in their own districts–knows how to collect votes in their neighborhoods.

The thought comes to mind since today is Christine Quinn’s State of the City address, and in it, she recognizes no fewer than 38 fellow lawmakers, 28 of them in her own City Council. None got named twice, but the 28 came from every borough, from both parties, from every ethnic and cultural group and interest represented in the Council.

The first mention went to Sara Gonzalez, a Hispanic councilmember from Sunset Park, who Ms. Quinn joined a few months ago for a meeting with a group of women who had formed a worker-owned business cooperative (and, it should be noted, there is not yet a Hispanic candidate in the 2013 mayor’s race.) The second went to Melissa Mark Viverito, likewise a Hispanic councilmember, and one who leads the Council’s progressive wing that is thought to be more closely aligned with one of Ms. Quinn’s 2013 rivals, Bill de Blasio. (And it should be noted, Ms. Mark Viverito would like Ms. Quinn’s job.) The third mention went to Danny Dromm, a gay lawmaker from Queens who like Ms. Mark Viverito is also a charter member of the Progressive Caucus.

And so on it goes: Diana Reyna gets recognized, as does one of her rivals, Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic Party head Vito Lopez.  Two potential candidates for Manhattan borough president–Gale Brewer and  Jessica Lappin–get recognized.

In some cases in the speech, Ms. Quinn lets out a string of names: “And I want to recognize Council Members Vincent Ignizio, James Oddo, Mathieu Eugene, and Lew Fidler for all their work on this issue,” she says at one point.

“Working with Council Members Robert Jackson, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Peter Vallone Jr., we’re going to roll out STEP starting in District 30 in Queens,” she says in another.

By comparison, in his own State of the Borough, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer only recognized five lawmakers, along with three of his fellow borough presidents–and yes, Mr. Stringer got a shout-out in Ms. Quinn’s address as well.

But the speech also comes as New Yorkers say that they want a more collaborative approach to government after a decade of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s “my way or the highway” approach. Indeed, the mayor’s perceived unwillingness to bring community groups and lawmakers on board have been a persistent criticism of his, and have led to some of his most marked failures, including the collapse of the West Side Stadium and some of the opposition his street-calming plans have brought.

As a political matter, it is unclear how much this strategy works. Lawmakers who are able to get elected in their own neighborhoods do so through dint of their own ability, and it may not be transferable to an ally. Plus, lawmakers often aren’t as willing to try quite as hard for someone else–even if that person thanked them during a major address.