Under Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s leadership, we have committed to raising the bar for justice and success in our City. To usher in meaningful changes for New Yorkers, we had to build a strong foundation at the Council—one that opened and strengthened internal processes.
A Member-Focused Body
To support and empower Members, the Speaker’s Office reinvested in and re-organized the Council. It implemented a legislative drafting unit to expedite requests from Members, added more staff to assist with oversight of City agencies, and positioned the Community Engagement Division to work more closely with diverse constituencies.
The Speaker also created a new division for the Council – Economic and Community Development (ECD)—to provide Members with expertise in neighborhood-based planning and design.
This groundwork has translated into a highly productive and effective Council. For example, Council Members have introduced 41% more bills and enacted 32% more local laws than through the same time period in the immediately preceding session.
Our ability to act as strong body on behalf of New Yorkers also rests on collaboration and inclusive decision-making. To this end, the Speaker and Central staff initiate regular and proactive briefings and actively engage and consult Members, borough delegations and caucuses. Members also have a meaningful opportunity to propose new budget initiatives and the Council’s Budget Negotiation Team and delegations have expanded roles in determining final proposals and outcomes.
These practices have improved the way we work and result in better outcomes for neighborhoods throughout our City.
A Commitment to Diversity
This Council better reflects this City. In the last two years, the representation of people of color, women and LGBT persons in the Council’s central staff has significantly increased at the highest ranks. This is not only a matter of equity but it’s also critical for developing policies that are responsive to all of our communities.
Our commitment to diversity in leadership is also evident in the budget negotiating process, which is led by three women of color: Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Finance Director Latonia McKinney. This level of representation is unprecedented for the Council and our City.
We also want our nominees and appointments to boards, task forces and commissions to look like this City. In the first half of this term, we increased the diversity of people recommended to serve on these bodies.
The Council is placing more emphasis on multilingual outreach and proactively engaging ethnic and neighborhood news outlets, with the Speaker establishing a director of media diversity relations to drive this work.
We’re also meeting people where they are online. The Council is implementing a plan for communicating with constituents via texting and social media; sharing data and partnering with civic technologists to further our work; and creating a website that demystifies government—all of which increase access to the Council and the diversity of voices participating in conversations around local issues.