By LOUIS FLORES
New York City Councilmember Inez Barron (D-East New York) has announced a late, insurgent campaign to become a history-making speaker of the Municipal legislature. If elected by her peers, Councilmember Barron would become the first Black speaker of the New York City Council. The announcement, made formal by a news release shared on Wednesday morning, affirmed remarks made Tuesday evening by Councilmember Barron at a unity rally at the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn to mark the first day of Kwanzaa, according to the news release. The Tuesday remarks were "received with a thunderous standing ovation," according to the news release.
In announcing her late candidacy, Councilmember Barron stated that, "Although other candidates of color had previously declared their candidacy prior to Councilmember Inez Barron, as of this announcement, not one had unequivocally affirmed that he would remain as a candidate for Speaker when the actual vote will be taken at the first Stated Meeting on January 3, 2018. Each of the other candidates was willing to accept other assignments, in lieu of the Speakership."
Controversy over the role of money in politics and some racial strife have risen to the fore over the process by which U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) has selected a White candidate, Councilmember Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea), for the speakership. Government reform advocates have complained that the current speakership selection process undercuts the democratic functions of the New York City Council. In an editorial published on a personal Web site, the political journalist Gerson Borrero noted complaints by Government reform activists to the process that selects the speakership. One of Mr. Borrero's sources suggested that Government reform advocates commence a Court action to challenge the undemocratic process that selects the Council speaker.
Although the City Charter provides for the membership of the City Council to vote for the Council speaker, the selection process has been undermined by outside influence. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) and various lobbying firms interrupted the typical process, traditionally controlled by the chairs of Queens, Bronx, and sometimes the Brooklyn County committees of the Democratic Party, to select the Council speaker. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio installed Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Spanish Harlem) as Council speaker.
Councilmember Barron's insurgent campaign was announced after U.S. Rep. Crowley and others had selected Councilmember Johnson to install as the next Council speaker. As reported last month by Mr. Borrero for City & State, at least 32 Municipal legislators had pledged their votes to U.S. Rep. Crowley, so that he could select a no-name, T.B.A. Council speaker at his discretion.