Following Melissa Mark-Viverito’s blistering defeat over the lionization of her idol Oscar Lopez Rivera, she has decided not to have the customary press conference before today’s stated meeting of the Council. Unwilling to face the music in front of the media after her bizarre crusade fizzled out, MMV will glumly sulk behind the curtains, nursing fantasies of right-wing persecution.
It is amazing that MMV was so far adrift from the mainstream of even New York City liberal sentiment that she thought celebrating someone who actually bombed New York City and killed people was a good idea. She parsed words and tried to pretend that because Rivera was convicted of conspiracy charges, that meant he was some kind of thought criminal or political prisoner--but no one bought that feeble argument. Everyone has watched enough crime TV to understand how conspiracy charges work, and the Osama bin Laden parallel was stark enough: OBL also technically didn’t “kill anyone.”
As I predicted several weeks ago, Bill de Blasio intervened to prevent this suicidal car wreck of political malpractice from totally destroying his national profile. Now he is even bragging about having been the one to apply leverage to remove the honorific from OLR’s presence. However, that doesn’t take away from the mayor’s specious hemming and hawing about how OLR had received commutations “from two Presidents,” something MMV repeated too. Do they think a commutation is like a Nobel Prize? Having your sentence commuted is a gesture of mercy, not recognition of your heroism.
I would like to take this moment to say to my colleagues in the press, and other close observers of the council, I told you so. From the moment of her ascendency to the speakership, I, and I alone, cautioned New York that, in the person of MMV, a radical and unstable personality had been placed in a position of power. The very week of her 2014 election, I published an analysis of the contradiction between her youth of immense privilege and the radical politics of her adulthood. A year later, in January 2015, I drew attention to her eulogy for Isabel Rosado Morales, a Puerto Rican separatist who took part in a two-hour gun battle with the police, and was convicted for her part in the attack on the floor of the House, when five Congressmen were wounded.
Following her first State of the City speech, in February 2015, I questioned her positioning of the Puerto Rican flag on the stage, in front of the flags of New York State and New York City, in contravention of all common sense and flag protocol. Why was anyone surprised this year, after the release of her cherished idol, that she finagled a grand honor for Oscar Lopez Rivera under the auspices of the parade that she controls? Her whole history indicated that MMV has a destructive, labile streak.
Anyway, you are welcome. Pointing out uncomfortable truths, years ahead of the news cycle, is what we do at City Council Watch—for free.
So we see another council speaker fade, fade away. When will everyone understand that the speaker of the city council is not a “citywide elected” post? It is barely a council-elected position. The speaker of the city council is chosen by the remnants of the city’s political machines in conjunction with the mayor. The Bronx and Queens council delegations will vote as a bloc, perhaps excepting one or two, giving Joe Crowley control of 22 votes. Any council member who can scrape together five or six independent votes and go to Boss Joe on his knees, promising to work as a faithful and reliable cog, can be the speaker.
That’s why we never see council speakers ever do anything else political afterward—they are all used up. Gifford Miller and Christine Quinn were just creations of the bosses. They had no citywide constituency. In fact, no one really knew who they were. Same thing with MMV: she will go down in city history as the nutcase who wanted to honor a convicted terrorist as a civic hero.
The retirement of Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is said to have “upended” the race for speaker, but that argument gets everything backward. She isn’t leaving the frontrunner space open: she is leaving because she couldn’t win. It wouldn’t make sense for Queens to have the speakership anyway, because it upsets the balance of power, and JFC was never, ever going to get the backing of Crowley. Even if they mended fences, she would always be the mayor’s first pick…so where would she owe her allegiance? The Progs don’t have the votes to deliver the speakership, so she did the math and, rightly, decided that she didn’t want to serve out a boring third term like Annabel Palma, out of power, with a minor chairmanship at best.
Really the biggest loser out of her retirement is Brad Lander. He no longer has a lodestar towards which he can summon the Prog rump to sail, with himself as captain. With MMV and JFC gone, Prog disintegration will be complete, and Brad will be Ahab with no crew, no ship, and no whale.
At this point, handicapping the speaker race, I would say Corey Johnson and Mark Levine each are running with a 40% likelihood. Donovan Richards and Rob Cornegy are outside chances with 5% each. The other 10% can be split among whoever else is pretending to run.