Councilwoman Helen Foster, where have you been?
Foster (D-Bronx) had the worst City Council absentee rate of all the 51 members last year, showing up for only 61.7 percent of her meetings, an amNewYork analysis has found.
Surprisingly, she and six of the 10 members who were the most chronic no-shows last year also voted to extend term limits.
"It’s ironic that those who fought strongly for a third term have the worst attendance records,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union, a good-government group.
“They need to earn their salary,” said Dadey, who added that it’s “inexcusable” for council members, who make a base pay of $112,500 for the part-time job, to be MIA so often.
Foster said she had to travel out-of-state several times to tend to ill family members, but her staff went to meetings for her.
“If I had not had those family emergencies then I would have been present at those meetings,” Foster said in an e-mail Monday, adding that members’ attendance at meetings and whether they supported extending term limits are separate issues.
Backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Foster and a number of other current council members took part in the controversial 2008 vote to extend term limits.
Among those who also voted to scrap the two-term limits was Councilman Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn). Unlike some of his colleagues, Fidler had one of the best attendance records last year at 96.7 percent.
“Maybe I value it a little bit more because I know my time here will come to an end,” said Fidler, who’s on his third term.
With Quinn being the only member who missed no meetings last year, the average attendance for full sessions and committee meetings in 2010 was 88.6 percent. Council members Mark Weprin (D-Queens), Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) and Deborah Rose (D-Staten Island) had attendance rates above 98 percent.
Those on the bottom had attendances under 80 percent.
They included Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan), Joel Rivera (D-Bronx), Sara Gonzalez (D-Brooklyn), Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-Brooklyn), Erik Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) and Larry Seabrook (D-Bronx), all of whom voted to extend term limits. Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) and James Gennaro (D-Queens) also were in the bottom 10, but voted against a third term.
While many did not respond to requests for comment or declined to speak, Dickens and Gonzalez said they had family illnesses to deal with.
Recchia said that as chairman of the Finance Committee, he has been working “three times as hard.”
Barron similarly argued that he had also been hard at work. “Take my attendance in my community,” he said.