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Borough President Stringer Takes On City Council Pork Distribution

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The 2013 mayor's race is heating up, as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is taking on a potential rival by demanding City Council Speaker Christine Quinn overhaul the way she doles out pork among her members. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

City Council Christine Quinn has millions of dollars at her disposal. It is public money that each year the speaker divvies up among members, and in turn they give it to local organizations.

Critics charge that the way the money is distributed is deeply flawed - and a way for the speaker to reward political pals. One critic in particular, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, says the status quo needs to end.

"Nobody in their right mind can defend this system," Stringer said. "By any measure it makes no sense."

The borough president wants a more equitable system put in place. A report by his office shows the disparities currently at play.

A handful of other members collected more than $1 million as well. City Councilman Domenic Recchia's district got $1.6 million in member items this year.

Brooklyn Councilman Lewis Fidler got $1.2 million, Queens Councilman Leroy Comrie got $1.2 million this year and Staten Island Councilman James Oddo got $1 million.

Other members pulled in only a fraction of what their colleagues got. Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer got $403,464, Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron got $399,464 and Bronx City Council members Larry Seabrook and Helen Foster each got the lowest amount of $362,651.

"The entire system of distributing the public's money this way is simply unfair and should be changed," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York.

Stringer's report also finds that if the money was distributed based upon a district's needs, there would be vastly different results.

Bronx-Manhattan Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito would jump from 22nd place in the money ranking to first place, and Bronx Councilwoman Helen Foster would go from last place to second.

Then, Bronx Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo would go from 16th place to third and Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma would go from eighth place to fourth.

It turns out New York City is unique when it comes to the way it hands out pork. Stringer's office says it contacted America's other biggest cities and found none with a system that raised as many red flags for them as the one at City Hall.

Stringer has not shied away from participating in the system. He got member items as an state assemblyman and as borough president.

Quinn is defending the system and touted the reforms she has put in place.

"We've been working for a number of years to bring greater transparency, greater credibility, verification to the council's member item process," the speaker said.

She also said this is an issue the council takes seriously.

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