The New York City Council is supposed to be the voice of the people. It is where each and every corner of the city is supposed to have local representation. The leadership of the Council has taken several forms over the years.
At the inception of the Council (then called the Board of Aldermen—and men indeed!) in 1898 there was a president of the Board. And as expected for the next 39 years, 17 white men held that position. The next iteration of leadership of the Council was the president of the Council. Eleven white men and only one white woman held that spot over the next 49 years. Then there was one term where the Public Advocate, another white man, led the Council, and then for the past 15 years there has been a speaker of the City Council. To date one man and two women have held the position. Of those two women, one has been Latino, and one gay.
So to date there have been 32 Council members who have served as the leader of the Council. Three have been women. One has been gay. One has been Latino. The rest have been straight, white men. Isn’t it time for a change?
We have never had a Black man or woman lead the Council, and over the past 119 years only one Latina. This does not make sense in a city such as New York. Where are the voices of our communities? Why aren’t they being heard?
There are currently 26 members of the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. It should be easy to elect a person of color with those kinds of numbers in our favor. Still, it is mostly white men who will make the decision, behind closed doors, as to whom will lead this august body, primarily one of color, for the next four years.
And so the cycle will be unbroken, unless we take a stand. We need to change the paradigm. We need to change the color of leadership. We need the Council to reflect what former Mayor Dinkins called the “gorgeous mosaic.” We need leadership that cares about all of our communities. We need leadership that reflects our image.