The City Council and the Eternal Lulu

Before stipends, Councilmembers collect a $112,500 salary

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NEW YORK - APRIL 22: New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn speaks during An Evening of Practical Magic hosted by City Harvest at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 22, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for City Harvest, Inc.)

    As the French say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

    The City Council still likes "lulus" -- those little packages of money that some committee chairs get nominally for leading their respective committees.  But its really about being loyal to the Council boss, Speaker Christine Quinn.

    Lulus go back in Council lore to the good old days when party bosses ruled the five boroughs and these leaders bestowed largesse on their favorites.

    Reformer Dick Dadey, the head of Citizens Union, doesn’t like this situation -- and he’s demanding change. Lulus, he says, "go to almost every member to increase their pay and help bring loyalty to the speaker, Christine Quinn."

    Thus, City Councilman Domenic Recchia becomes chair of the finance committee, bringing him a stipend --  lulu -- of $18,000 on top of his regular Council pay of $112,500.

    Dadey proposes eliminating committee stipends, which cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars every year. Twenty-one of the 51 Council members support eliminating committee chairs, so Dadey would seem to have the votes he needs to get reform enacted.

    Decrying the current system, Dadey says it drives up "the number of unnecessary committees and strengthens the influence of the speaker beyond what is necessary, because she decides who gets them and how much they get."

    Quinn told the Daily News last month: "I’m fine with the way the system is now."

    The reformers aren’t and presumably neither are the 21 Council members who want to eliminate them.

    It will be interesting to see how this political drama plays out. At this moment, when voters in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts have shown their revulsion for politics as usual, will New York City’s own legislature act responsibly?

    A cynic would answer: "No!"

    But Dadey and his reformer associates live in hope --and, one of these years, they may be right.