By law the New York City Council is the legislative body for New York City. It is supposed to be a check on the power of the mayor of New York City. The city council is charged with monitoring the performances of city agencies, making land use decisions, voting on budgets, providing information to residents, as well as a numbers of other things. Its 51 members are elected to four-year terms with a two term consecutive maximum.
But there is a major cultural deficit attendant to New York City government as it relates to the checks and balances in municipal governmental affairs. The mayor appoints the agency commissioners; but these appointees do not come before the city council to obtain confirmation. Nor does the city council under current laws have the legal authority to impeach any agency commissioners. At the state level, the New York State Senate is legally authorized to hold confirmation hearings prior to approving the governor’s selections for agency commissionerships. What’s more the U. S. Senate per the U. S. Constitution must hold confirmation hearings on all the president’s selections to head U.S. government agencies.
The rank importance of the city council having a say in who the mayor selects as agency heads and having a continuous say in their continued employment cannot be understated. Its now time for laws that gives muscle to the New York City Council as follows:
First, the city council must be given the lawful authority to hold confirmation hearings for all of the mayor’s appointees to the rank of commissioner, deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner. All such candidates for appointment to these posts ought be mandated to appear before a designated city council committee and give sworn testimony regarding their work history and their plans for their agency post. These nominees must then be mandated to come before the full city council, answer any questions regarding their work history and plans for their agency post before being confirmed by the full city council.
Second, the city council must be given the lawful authority to impeach any agency commissioners, deputy commissioners or assistant commissioners after a full hearing and a chance to be heard under oath. Prior to any impeachment hearing, written charges and specifications must be drawn, served on the relevant parties and posted on the council’s website.
Third, all candidates for judgeships on the New York City Criminal Court, Family Court and Civil Court must be mandated by law to obtain city council confirmation. Impeachment of judges is already provided by various New York State law provisions and the New York State Commission on Judicial conduct.
Its time to begin a public discourse on how confirmation hearings and impeachment power can improve the operations of the New York City Council. Giving the city council power to hold confirmation hearings and impeachment power would increase the checks and balances on the power of the mayor.
Joe Gonzalez is a New York City Community Activist