In one of his first initiatives as mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio strong-armed his ideological ally Melissa Mark-Viverito into the office of city-council speaker. In that role, she may be the second most powerful official in the city: Proposed legislation will pass through her office and she will set the agenda of the city council.
And her election has some observers worried. Council speakers traditionally represent the independent voice of the legislature, and they can, when necessary, act as a check on the mayor’s power. But, in many ways, Mark-Viverito – propelled into the office in large measure by de Blasio’s lobbying – is a progressive in the same mold as the new mayor. [...]
Councilwoman Mark-Viverito – who serves the city’s eighth district, covering northeastern Manhattan and some of the South Bronx – has been described by some colleagues as too liberal and too abrasive. She helped found and now co-chairs the Progressive Caucus of the city council – the farthest-left group in the legislature – and, with the Progressive Caucus, has advocated for the expansion of prevailing-wage requirements, the raising of the minimum wage, and higher taxes on the wealthy.
She was also an active participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which she said “inspired” her. “We are the 99 percent,” she said at an Occupy rally in November 2011. “We represent the 99 percent. We are representing people that have been impacted by the corporate greed, by the 1 percent.”
Mark-Viverito’s strong ties with Occupy extended beyond speaking at its rallies; she was once arrested for blocking a street during an Occupy protest against income inequality. “I was more than happy to participate in this action,” she said of her arrest. “Government needs to respond to the immediate crisis that we have, which is an economic crisis and inequality crisis in terms of how government is structured.”