POLITICS AS UNUSUAL

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COUNCIL CONTENDERS GET FRESH: They’re starting with a bang–if you don’t count the 45-minute delay while they waited hopefully for reporters from Room 9 to trickle outside for a press conference on the City Hall steps. On Thursday, a handful of Democratic nominees for City Council called for reforms to council rules. If implemented, the changes could significantly change the council’s balance of power.

Calling itself the Fresh Democracy Council, the group of 17 plans to push its proposals at the Council’s first full meeting in January. “Power should be more decentralized,” said Charles Barron, one of the group’s leaders and the Democratic candidate for council in East New York. The group hopes to gather 26 members, a majority of the 51-member council, by the end of this year.

While they continue to debate the details of their proposals, all the members agree that the next Speaker should act as a facilitator, not a centralized political dealmaker in the mold of departing Speaker Peter Vallone. Their ideas include abolishing the practice of having the Speaker appoint the Council’s rules committee, currently in charge of selecting chairs for every other committee. Instead, they’re considering having the entire Council vote for the members of a new committee that would carry out the influential task of selecting committee chairs.

Each councilmember’s discretionary budget for neighborhood projects should also be distributed more fairly, they say, rather than doled out by the Speaker as favors.

Of course, the group also hopes to put forth a candidate for the Speaker’s race, for which Brooklyn Heights Democratic candidate David Yassky expects a “divisive” debate. They do have at least one contender among them: Al Vann, a former Assemblyman and Democratic nominee from Bedford-Stuyvesant. While whomever they choose must sign on to their proposals, Vann’s membership in their caucus does not guarantee him their endorsement. Said Barron, “The whole group may not be for Al Vann.”