Aw, man. The love fest over the newly minted City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was going so well. But it looks like the honeymoon is now over.
Midwood-Flatbush Councilmember Jumaane Williams made the curious move yesterday of wondering aloud, in the presence of a reporter, whether the committee chairmanships sufficiently represented black council members.
“My hope was that diversity would be considered a little bit more,” Williams told Politicker. “I am concerned about blacks in powerful leadership positions actually across the city, particularly with the role that they play in getting a lot of the issues forward and getting people where they were … So it concerned me that we haven’t achieved that. But I decided that I have faith in madam speaker … and I am looking forward to what we’re going to do.”
Williams was appointed the the Council’s leadership team and seven committees. That includes a spot as chair of the notable Housings & Buildings committee. So he certainly wasn’t griping about his own position.
Williams was joined by councilmembers Inez Barron, wife and successor to firebrand Charles Barron, and Ruben Wills also questioned the status of blacks in the Council, although both received appointments.
Mark-Viverito’s leadership style is yet to be fully seen. But the power of the speaker is, well, powerful, and gave previous leaders like Christine Quinn a channel to dole out vengeance to disobedient members. Sometimes that meant smaller discretionary budgets or killing key bills that made the rep look good.
Although Mark-Viverito said she was open to the question, an anonymous insider suggested to Politicker that, with that kind of criticism coming out of the gate, it’s likely to incur the speaker’s retribution.
“For those members to take it public in such fashion is not the best strategy. They are testing the waters and pushing the boundaries. I am certain it will be handled–I can’t tell you how but it will be, but the speaker cannot be admonished like that publicly,” the insider said.
Some of that vengeance is already on display. One of Mark-Viverito’s fiercest critics during the speaker race was Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who received no appointments.