By WINNIE HU (NYT) 706 words
NEW YORK TIMES, METROPOLITAN DESK
New Speaker Shuffles Deck; Some Win, Some Lose
Published: June 25, 2006
When there are 50 City Council members besides Speaker Christine C. Quinn, all vying for a share of the city's roughly $53 billion budget this year, bringing home the pork can turn into a popularity contest.
The members who come out ahead invariably enjoy a close relationship with the speaker, whether because of a personal rapport or a political alliance. And figuring out just where a particular member stands is a favorite pastime among City Hall insiders and lobbyists.
'Stands to reason; new speaker, new pecking order,' said Gene Russianoff, an attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group since 1979, who has watched the jockeying by members under four leaders.
The council members are often little help in assessing their own standing, since nearly everyone will claim to be a friend of the speaker. Even those who have differences with Ms. Quinn take pains to maintain the appearance, at least, of cordial relations.
Leadership titles, too, can be misleading since these ensure only access to the speaker, and sometimes nothing more. 'There a difference between being in the room, and being in the room and being trusted and listened to,' said Councilman Lewis A. Fidler of Brooklyn.
Ms. Quinn herself has been careful not to show overt favoritism. Indeed, at news conferences, she acknowledges each member who is present, reciting their names from memory.
Even so, certain council members seem to be more in favor than others.
Councilman Robert Jackson of Manhattan commands newfound respect since Ms. Quinn made him chairman of the influential Education Committee. Mr. Jackson was on the committee before but was overshadowed by the former chairwoman, Eva S. Moskowitz, a favorite of the last speaker, Gifford Miller.
Ms. Quinn's affinity for Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. of Brooklyn has not escaped notice. The speaker often refers to Mr. Recchia, the chairman of the Cultural Affairs committee as the 'cultural czar,' and is said to give more weight to cultural issues as a result.
In what is widely seen as a nod to Brooklyn Democratic leaders, Ms. Quinn has helped raise the profiles of several of that borough's members. Councilman Erik Martin Dilan was tapped to lead the Housing and Buildings Committee, and Councilwoman Diana Reyna, the Rules, Privileges and Elections Committee.
Another Brooklyn member, Mr. Fidler, the assistant majority leader, seems to have joined Ms. Quinn's inner circle after running against her last fall for speaker.
Members say that Ms. Quinn consults Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr. of Queens, the deputy majority leader, who works behind the scenes to build consensus among the minority members. They say that she is also fond of the youthful majority leader, Joel Rivera, whose father is the Bronx Democratic leader, buts takes him far less seriously.
Rosie Mendez, Inez E. Dickens, and Dan Garodnick, new council members from Manhattan, have been quick to gain Ms. Quinn's ear, members say. Another Manhattan member, Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin, a former aide to Mr. Miller, with whom Ms. Quinn remains close, was put in charge of a small but influential landmarks subcommittee.
In contrast, several returning council members have seen their fortunes wane with the change in speakers. Queens Councilwoman Melinda R. Katz, who heads the powerful Land Use Committee, is said to have had more clout with Mr. Miller. So, too, did Councilman Eric Gioia of Queens, who was often spotted riding with Mr. Miller in his city-issued sport utility vehicle.
Councilman James Sanders Jr. of Queens has made himself scarce since his removal as chairman of the Economic Development Committee, members say. In a rare display of discontent, Mr. Sanders protested on the Council floor by invoking the spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche, saying, 'What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.'
Councilwoman Letitia James, of Brooklyn remains active, though she was one of the few members denied a committee posting by Ms. Quinn.
But then being out with the speaker can have its advantages, too. Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, is a perennial favorite of the City Hall press corps because he is the most outspoken critic of Ms. Quinn's policies.
Still, even Mr. Barron does not hesitate to stand beside Ms. Quinn during news conferences on education and minority issues.