Some Speaker Candidates Offer to Stick Around a Little Longer

Councilman Mark Weprin. (Photo: Facebook)

Councilman Mark Weprin. (Photo: Facebook)

As he lobbies aggressively to become the next speaker of the City Council, Mark Weprin likes to say he has one clear advantage over his rivals: he will be able to serve in the city’s second most powerful post for up to eight years.

Mr. Weprin’s pitch, made again at a forum Monday night, is one more element the 51 members of the council must weigh when they gather to vote for a new speaker come January. Outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn enjoyed an eight-year tenure, which–of the candidates vying to replace her–only Mr. Weprin, who hails from Queens, and Councilman Jumaane Williams, from Brooklyn, could replicate.

“Jumaane Williams and I have an advantage over the rest of the panel in that we have the opportunity to run for another term. Everyone else is term-limited out after this coming term,” Mr. Weprin told the audience. “What that does is that it creates accountability for us where we have to go back to the members and say, ‘Did we do a good job, are we doing a good job?'”

There are other benefits, he argued, of the non-lame duck status.

“One of the problems is, it’s a much weaker model if the mayor and the members know you’re gone after this first term and certainly as we get further into this first term, the third year, it’s going to be much harder to keep members working together if they know you’re going to be gone,” he continued. (Mr. Weprin also distinguishes himself by preemptively declaring that he will never run for mayor, as Ms. Quinn and ex-Speaker Gifford Miller did.)

Mr. Weprin’s other rivals for the speaker’s post–Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dan Garodnick, Jimmy Vacca, Inez Dickens and Annabel Palma–will all be term-limited out in four years. Mr. Weprin and Mr. Williams can both serve another two terms because they were elected in 2009, when a law temporarily–and controversially–extended a two-term limit.

But Mr. Vacca, who was elected four years before Mr. Weprin, pushed back on the idea that his four-year limit would make him a weaker speaker.

“I feel four years is enough to make a difference,” he told Politicker after the forum. “I look forward to that possibility … There’s always going to be a time where an elected official is a lame duck when you have term limits in place. As long as we have term limits in place, he would be a lame duck in his second term, under that theory. But I don’t agree with that. I do think that Mayor Bloomberg has been very strong the last four years as mayor, he has implemented many things–he was technically a lame duck.”

“Four years allows for a new speaker to come in,” agreed Ms. Dickens. “A four-year speaker is just as strong, just as powerful and as much a coalition builder.”

Ultimately, what may also hold back Mr. Weprin and Mr. Williams are the ambitions of the other council members, who could be eying the speaker gig themselves. An eight-year Weprin or Williams reign would rule the post out for every returning and incoming member.

“There aren’t a lot of council members who are ready to give away their shot at ever being speaker before they’ve even been sworn in,” said one source close to the City Council. “The process this year lets everyone think they could be speaker in four years. These folks didn’t get this far by lacking ambition.”

Some Speaker Candidates Offer to Stick Around a Little Longer