Know This Dude?
You may (or may not) have heard of this gentleman's name. Gifford ran for Mayor during this year's Democratic Mayoral Primary. He lost, finishing in last place among the four top Democratic contenders.
When he wasn't running for Mayor, Gifford served as the Speaker of your New York City Council (a perch he still holds today). The Council Speaker is elected by the Council members (there are 51 of them citywide including Gifford), and is primarily responsible for obtaining a consensus on major issues (or at least so goes the explanation on the official Council website).
But there are a few things the Council website fails to mention about the Speaker's post: first, in addition to appointing the Chairs of all the Council's committees, the Speaker has access to a substantial stash of cash which s/he can easily dole out, without oversight, to Council Members (and their pet projects), non-governmental organizations and other entities across the City.
Second, the Speaker has the ability to not only move forward a real agenda using the Council's legislative, budgetary, land use and oversight powers, but to also use these powers to negotiate with - and sometimes leverage against - his Council colleagues, should they fall out of line.
Used well and wisely, the Speaker's position can and should be truly meaningful to us all. Used poorly and self-servingly, the position can easily become corrupt.
This job requires real talent and integrity. At the most basic level, the Speaker must be able to herd cats. But to affect positive, substantive change on a macro scale, the position requires a smart, hard working visionary. The Speaker must be able to inspire colleagues, advocates and the public into action and when necessary, put forward an agenda that is competitive with that of the Mayor's.