Council Speaker candidates break with Mayor on MTA, Congestion Pricing


In a highly competitive race, the eight candidates for City Council speaker faced off Friday night in a debate on NY1. They clashed over term limits. And while there was near consensus on congestion pricing and funding the MTA, the candidates’ positions on those issues put them at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Our Grace Rauh has the story.

As the city’s subway system crumbles, New Yorkers are demanding a fix.

“The subways are in crisis,” said Councilman Corey Johnson. “The buses are in crisis. We need more money.

“New York City and its ridership has a reasonable expectation that we are going to do our fair share,” said Councilman Robert Cornegy.

 “Yes, the city should put more money in,” said Councilman Mark Levine.

 And he was not alone in that sentiment.

All eight candidates running for City Council Speaker say the city should pump more money into the state-run MTA. It is a position directly at odds with Mayor de Blasio. He has refused to give the transit agency any additional funding.

The speaker candidates also broke with the mayor on congestion pricing. All raised hands in support of it. De Blasio says he is opposed.

“Congestion pricing — anything, a millionaire’s tax — whatever will get us to a place where there is adequate transportation for New Yorkers,” said Councilman Donovan Richards.

Extending term limits for council members is also a hot topic in the speaker’s race, with some candidates itching to give the council three terms — not two.

“If we all identify there’s a problem with the way term limits has been applied, we have a duty to provide leadership to change it,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams.

Some are reluctant to touch the issue, especially since New Yorkers have voted three times in favor of a two-term limit.

 “I do not see a groundswell of citizens seeking a referenda,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I do not see the impetus coming from the people to change this law.”

After 12 years of female leadership in the council, there are no women running. There is concern from some New Yorkers about the possibility that a white man will lead the body, given that a white man already runs the other side of City Hall.

The speaker is not elected by New Yorkers but by the 51 members of the City Council. It’s a vote, though, that historically has been influenced by outside players like political leaders, labor unions and the mayor.

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