How a bill becomes a law: Christine Quinn and the Yankees stadium vote

Former Village Voice investigative wizard Wayne Barrett has a great article for WNYC radio’s site on the political record of New York city council speaker (and current mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn that includes some juicy scuttlebutt on her role in the New York Yankees stadium deal. As Barrett outlines it:

  • Leading the Yankees’ push was Bronx Democratic Party leader Jose Rivera, a state assemblymember whose son Joel had taken over his spot on the New York city council. (This is the kind of thing that happens a lot in the Bronx.) Quinn was tight with Rivera after he’d helped her win the council speakership in 2006 — helped along, Barrett alleges, by Quinn’s arrangement of a plum city job for a Rivera associate.
  • Jose Rivera’s top adviser Stanley Schlein was “driving the Yankee negotiations” at the council, according to another Rivera aide. In addition, the Yankees had Rivera’s predecessor as party boss, Roberto Ramirez, on the payroll as well.
  • Quinn helped shepherd the Yankees project through the council, including getting the team a new Metro-North commuter rail station near the stadium at no cost to the team.

Quinn denies any notion of a quid pro quo, but it’s long been clear that something made her get behind the project 110% — I was at the council hearing the day that the Yankees project was approved, and recall the word coming down to the press table that the long delay in getting started was because “Chris Quinn has the Democratic caucus down in the basement and is lecturing them about how to vote.” In the end, only two members of the council voted against the plan, with several members ending up making speeches about their concerns and then voting yes regardless. And thus are the sausages made…

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5 comments on “How a bill becomes a law: Christine Quinn and the Yankees stadium vote

  1. Neil – So in New York, there aren’t any rules about a quorum or more of City Council members getting together to discuss how to vote prior to council meetings? In California, we have The Brown Act, which prohibits a quorum or more of local legislators from getting together (in person, electronically (email/phone), or person to person to person like telephone tag) to discuss any item which may be voted or or discussed at council meetings. Of course, that law doesn’t pertain to our state legislators, only to local legislators.

    So it sounds like what happened in New York with the meeting in the basement would be prohibited by law in California.

  2. I am not sure about that particular requirement, but these types of things are easily circumvented; lecture 15 councilmembers, send them off; lecture the next 15, send them off etc. As long as you stay below the number council members or % of the legislative body required to trigger the sunshine law, no one is the wiser.

    I used to work for the planning department, and when we needed to take City Planning Commission members on tour so that they could see a particular site, we used to have to do it in pieces over a few days.

    In any event, Chris Quinn was a horrible, horrible person during all of the Yankee Stadium stuff (as were most of the politicians, the Yankees and the press) and it will give me great pleasure to vote against her in the primary.

  3. Here’s the applicable NY law:

    http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/openmeetinglawfaq.html

    If Quinn was actually yelling at the caucus to get them in line, I’m sure it was as David says: Yell at half the members first, at the other half second.

  4. In California it would be illegal to speak to 1/2 of the members first, then the other 1/2. Members are allowed to speak to only a total (including themselves) of less than a quorum. It’s illegal to talk to one member at a time too – it’s called a ‘serial’ meeting, or to have member one talk to member two talk to member three etc. in a game of telephone tag. Sounds like our laws are stricter than NY’s laws.

  5. Perhaps one of the most appalling aspects of most stadium deals is that the very legislators that vote for them like to prance around proclaiming their “concerns” and “objections” AFTER they have voted in favour of handing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to their billionaire friends (or the billionaires they would like to have as friends).

    Shameful, disgusting. It should be criminal… but we all know who writes the laws, yes?

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