NEW YORK — The City Council speaker serves as the leader of the city’s legislature and is considered to be the second-most powerful official, after mayor, in the five boroughs.

But it's not a position that regular New Yorkers get to elect. The 51 members of the City Council select the speaker in January, at the start of the new term every four years. Twenty-six votes are needed to secure the post, resulting in candidates “campaigning” among their fellow council members to secure the necessary support needed to win.

The negotiations over selecting the leader of the legislature also lead to behind-the-scenes jockeying over who the eventual speaker will select to lead the council’s various committees, including the powerful budget and land-use committees.

One of the speaker's most powerful roles is serving as a check on the mayor. The speaker can be a partner with the mayor, shepherding through legislation the administration wants. Or the speaker can be a thorn in the administration's side, blocking bills the mayor proposes and holding oversight hearings aimed at looking into the administration’s policies.

Some of those clashes come out in one of the speaker's biggest annual tasks: approving the city's budget. The budget — last clocked in at over $95 billion — is due at the end of every June, and the speaker is at the center of negotiations. The speaker has to work with the mayor to hammer out a final cost and decide which priorities are funded, all the while balancing the needs of individual council members.

The council speaker is a current member of the City Council, so that means they must also still serve their district constituents.

As a result of council members now being limited to two terms, most speakers have served just one term in the post.


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