Actually, former – and the first – speaker of the City Council Peter Vallone, Sr. was invited back to his old stomping grounds by the man who currently holds the post he negotiated into existence decades ago for a surprise 85th birthday party at City Hall before a recent stated meeting.
“Peter Vallone, Sr. made New Yorker greater and has been an inspiration to so many who followed him in that important role, including myself,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
Joining the party were Vallone’s three sons, former councilman and current judge Peter Jr., current councilman Paul, and Perry.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the City Council, the modern-day version of the legislative body was created in 1938 and had 26 members, but much of the administrative and financial duties were under the purview of the Board of Estimate.
Certain decision by the City Council were subject to approval by the board, most notably the budget.
Primarily frustrated with their lack of meaningful input on the latter, some City council members sued. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled the Board of Estimate violated the one-person, one-vote mandate in the U.S. Constitution, and it was abolished.
The City Council was granted full power over the municipal budget, as well as had its oversight on zoning and land use expanded.
The post of president of the City Council was renamed public advocate, and Vallone became the first speaker of the City Council, and with it the second most powerful position in city government.
Vallone held the post until 2002, when term limits forced him out. Gifford Miller was elected by fellow members to replace him, and he was followed by Christine Quinn and then Melissa Mark-Viverito. Johnson is only the fifth person to serve as speaker.
If there is one criticism of the post, it’s that the speaker holds too much influence over the members of the City Council given his or her input on the city budget and committee assignments.
Council members who fall out of favor with the speaker could see investment in their district drop or their own influence diminished.
That’s of course if the person holding post were less than scrupulous, which in some circles is the same as being an astute politician, so we guess it depends on your perspective.
Either way, every speaker that followed in Vallone’s footsteps owes their considerable say in city government to Vallone. In that case, we guess we would hang his photo on the wall and pony up for a cake on his birthday, too!