There were many important hearings at the New York City Council yesterday. At one, tearful relatives talked about what it was like to watch a spouse get mowed down by a reckless cabbie, or hear that their son would never make it home because a careless city bus driver had run them over. At another, woman testified about what it meant when a labor and delivery unit at an outer-borough hospital shut down. But the most interesting—and, for the progressive agenda, perhaps the most important—hearing was about the Council itself and how to make it a more vibrant and democratic body. In the words of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the goal is a Council “of unity, equality and fairness... one that encourages debate.”
A focus on the Council's rules is not itself unusual: There is a standing Rules Committee to consider such changes, and each Council term begins with the adoption of the rules that will govern the distribution of power among the speaker, committee chairs and individual members. What was different about Monday's event was that the Council began a full-scale reconsideration of how that power ought to be divvied up.
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