By Stephen Witt (Special from KingsCountyPolitics)
For Brownsville Freshman Assembly member Latrice Walker, assembly reform takes precedence over who the legislative body ultimately elects to succeed Shelly Silver on Feb. 10.
Walker said there is agreement on this issue among all 14 freshman statewide, including the five Brooklyn freshman — Walker, Rodneyse Bichotte, Roxanne Persaud, Erik Dilan and Charles Barron — that they will not endorse anyone as speaker until they interview all the candidates.
"My district needs a lot of help and has been without a representative for a long time, and they (the assembly) haven't even given me enough money to rent office space. It's like they want me to do constituent services out of the trunk of a car," Walker said.
Walker said the freshman members were originally given a paltry $85,000 per year for office staff and after they complained that got a bump to $93,000.
"There is no level of transparency for the freshman class. I asked for the assembly operating budget and I was never given a clear answer. I don't even know if they have one. I can't even find out how much my predecessor (William Boyland) got," said Walker. "Brooklyn does need a united voice for what we bring home to the borough, but the freshman class has particular issues and they should be solved so no freshman has to ever go through what we've had to go through."
According to sources, the assembly budget under Silver has been highly centralized with a lot of the money going to centralized staff under Silver's control. Additionally, unlike the senate, which publishes expenditures for both committees and individual members every six months, the assembly doesn't regularly print expenditures.
Also unlike the senate, there are no term limits on chairing committees or serving in leadership roles, which all comes with additional salary and operating allocations.
The freshmen assembly members concerns come as the Kings County Democratic Committee is reported to be endorsing Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie for speaker, with both County Chair Frank Seddio and Brooklyn Borough Assembly Chair Joe Lentol also endorsing Heastie.
But it's not just freshmen who are voicing concern, it appears other longtime assembly members who cover a swath of Central Brooklyn are pushing heavily for committee reform.
Assembly member Walter Mosley, who represents Brooklyn's 57th District, which includes the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant and is now in his second term, says he endorses Heastie as the new speaker because he is committed to reform.
"This legislative session is filled with difficult decisions and with Assemblyman Heastie's vision and leadership, the Democratic conference will benefit exponentially," said Mosley. "Carl has a history as a consensus builder, and my colleagues need only look towards him to see that he is the diversity that is needed in Albany's leadership."