With the current speaker, Gifford Miller, out because of term limits, the game is on. Members will elect one of their own in January. Christine Quinn, who represents a slice of the West Side from Greenwich Village up through Hell’s Kitchen, is a contender, if for no reason other than she stood up to Mayor Bloomberg on his plan for a Jets stadium. She spoke with Greg Sargent.
If you win, you’d be the most powerful openly gay elected official in city history.
There was a time when officials wouldn’t even go to gay political events—or if they did, they’d leave it off their public schedules. Today, we’re a mainstream constituency. Still, the vast majority of issues important to gays are the same ones straight people care about. There’s no gay or straight way to collect the garbage.
Given Bloomberg’s big win, can a speaker really stand up to him?
The mayor certainly received a mandate. But the vast majority of council members won their districts overwhelmingly—so we have a mandate too. If there’s an issue where the council differs with the mayor, and the public’s with us and we stick together, the power of the council in relation to this mayor will be abundantly clear.
Your pal Miller didn’t have the easiest time of it as speaker. What have you learned from him?
I learned that seeking the input of all members is the best way to build consensus. And I may focus a bit more on public health and affordable housing than Gifford did.
Several other council members have expressed interest in this job, too. Why you?
I think I have the longest and most varied level of council experience.
Would you overturn term limits?
They don’t allow officials to become experts over time, which is a very bad thing for government. The next council will definitely have to grapple with them.
Your enemies once spread rumors that you’re straight, which would be political death in your district.
I think I’ve effectively quashed the “straight” rumor.