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  City Hall Library Notes, may 2012

SPOTLIGHT ON: the City Council

By Christine Bruzzese

History of Ellis IslandThe City Council is the legislative branch of New York City.  Established by law in 1937 as the successor to the Board of Aldermen, this entity makes decisions on land use, oversees legislation and the budgeting process and monitors the performance and functions of city agencies.  This article highlights some resources in the City Hall Library collection focusing on the City Council.

Rules of the Council, published at various times, outlines the basic functions of the Council.  Procedures for conducting meetings, appointing and overseeing committees and proposing legislation are given.  Also included are duties of officers such as the Speaker and Presiding Officer.  Holdings are from 1963 to 2002, although the Rules were not published annually.

The History of the New York City Legislature by Frederick Shaw was published in 1954.  This book surveys the history of legislative bodies in New York City government and the city’s political history from 1851 to 1953.  Among the issues discussed are the weaknesses of the Board of Aldermen, the concept of Home Rule, charter revision and reform, the establishment of the City Council, proportional representation and future of the Council.

Windows of Opportunity: Campaign Finance Reform and the New York City Council is a 1992 report from the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Effects of new campaign finance legislation and program on the City Council elections of 1991 are reviewed.  Topics covered include analysis of elections in each borough, administration and utilization of the Campaign Finance Program, contributions and spending and recommendations for the future.

Principles of Council Reform: Ideas for a More Democratic and Effective City Council was prepared by the Citizens Union of New York City in 2006.  It was written by Doug Israel and Naoma Nagahawatte.   Focusing on five key concepts, the report proposed reforms that the authors believe would help the Council govern more effectively and fairly.  Included are reviews of Councils in other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.  Various recommendations are given for implementing reform measures.

The City Council has prepared many reports on issues of concern to New Yorkers such as health, education, housing and public safety.  A large collection of these can be found at the City Hall Library.  Consult biographical files for background information on past and present Council members.  Vertical files containing clippings on the City Council and related topics may also be of interest.

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