Perhaps you, or someone you know, have been assisted by the Community Outreach Unit of the New York City Council, a taxpayer-financed entity run out of the office of Council speaker Christine Quinn. With an annual payroll exceeding one million dollars, many of its 16 staffers are Ms. Quinn’s political allies. Their support of her mayoralty candidacy gives the unit a decidedly political cast.
Two staff members have become volunteers for Quinn’s mayoralty campaign; another staffer posts tweets from Ms. Quinn pleading for campaign donations. Still others have left the unit to work on her campaign full-time.
Ms. Quinn and her aides underscored that the unit addresses issues of importance to the Council. It has held training sessions for lawmakers and their staff about food stamps, the rights of immigrants, and mental health. It also assists ordinary New Yorkers. During Hurricane Sandy, Community Outreach staffers were on the phone around the clock, reported one council member. They constantly arrange events and speaking engagements throughout the City that feature Ms. Quinn.
As reported by the New York Times, out of 51council members, a surprisingly large number apparently do not know about this unit. More than 20 interviews revealed that council members, who were aware of the Outreach Unit, felt that its resources were not available to them. One veteran council member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reportedly commented that the unit does “not serve the Council.” It serves, instead, “the Council of one.”
However, according to Ms. Quinn, it is fairly common for citywide officials to have units of this kind. Outreach Unit staffers, she emphasized, in addition to promoting her candidacy, work on many other political campaigns.