The latest public clash over whether to impose a new monitor on the NYPD has everything to do with the race to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as surely as Election Day comes in November.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, running in a five-way Democratic mayoral primary, announced agreement with two council sponsors on a bill to create a new inspector general to monitor police policies. The council is expected to pass the legislation and, says Quinn, override the mayor's expected veto.
The political theatrics could serve Quinn by blunting criticism from Democratic detractors over her alliance with Bloomberg, amid controversy over police stop-and-frisk practices.
From her remarks, Quinn sounds likely to seek some separation from Bloomberg, though not all-out war. "I believe people can work together productively and not agree on . . . every particular thing," she said. Quinn and Bloomberg have one more budget to negotiate before leaving their offices Dec. 31 due to term limits.
It all highlights the council's importance as a clearinghouse for political ambitions.
Two Quinn rivals, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Comptroller John Liu, jumped from council seats to their citywide posts in 2009. Three years earlier, de Blasio was Quinn's leading competitor for speaker.
Another Democrat, Sal Albanese, was a council maverick for 15 years. On Wednesday night, in a forum organized by lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender organizations, Albanese dismissed the police-monitoring proposal as a shell game. "The council has oversight responsibility and subpoena power . . . to do the job if they have the courage to do the job."
Democratic candidate Bill Thompson was never a council member. But he's weighed in on a paid sick leave bill for all employees, suggesting that it be passed immediately but only take effect a year after enactment.
On Wednesday, the council's four GOP members endorsed Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota, the former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani and ex-MTA chairman. They voiced objections to the inspector-general bill, which Lhota called a new layer of bureaucracy.
Minority Leader James Oddo of Staten Island said it is significant that the party's four council members -- by charter the most "hyperlocal" government representatives -- agreed on Lhota as the best candidate.
Meanwhile, de Blasio and Thompson supported the inspector-general idea. Liu said he doesn't think it would hurt -- but said at the forum he isn't convinced it would help.
The most heated political response from an incumbent elected official came from the lame-duck mayor, who went so far as to claim its provisions would threaten the lives of police and others.
Beside the mayoral jockeying, a number of council members, if not seeking re-election in November, will try to move up into boroughwide or citywide office. For those staying in the council, or elected for the first time, a new internal scramble for council speaker follows the election.
For now through the fall, most city legislation and budgeting via the council qualifies as campaign fodder.