How to read the City Council’s numbers

This post about the New York World’s “Meet your new City Council” interactive was originally published on Decide NYC.

The new New York City Council convened for its first stated meeting on Wednesday, January 8, at which all 51 members simultaneously re-took their oaths of office and proceeded to vote for Council,ember Melissa Mark-Viverito to be their speaker. Mark-Viverito’s election came on the heels of a long and contentious race to lead the council.

The new council that Mark-Viverito will head features 21 new and 30 returning members. By virtually every measure, it is a diverse group, though the council is not necessarily representative of the city at large when it comes to gender and ethnicity. All 51 council members were required to file financial disclosure forms with the City’s Conflicts of Interests Board, detailing their 2012 income, debt, holdings, and more.

See The New York World’s interactive on the City Council’s financial disclosures

The presentation of information about the council members’ personal financial information should be consumed keeping in mind a few notes. First, for some new council members, their 2012 income may have taken a slight hit if they decided to take leave from a position in order to start running for the council full-time. Second, filings are done within fairly large ranges, which can make it difficult to fully ascertain the totals within certain categories, such as income, as can be seen by selecting income from the drop-down menu and then mousing over a council member’s image.

Third, when it comes to the figures for debt, securities, real estate investments, and property ownership, council member filings may be (legally) misrepresentative of holdings if certain debts or assets are held solely in a council member’s partner or spouse’s name. Public officials are at times able to at least attempt to deflect attention from their finances by utilizing this strategy.

Fourth, on the category of professional licensure: several council members who at one time held a license in a given field may no longer hold said license and therefore would not declare it in their most recent filing. For example, Council Members Danny Dromm and Alan Maisel were New York City public school teachers for several years prior to joining the council.

Even given these caveats, the data is interesting and worthwhile as the city gets to know its new legislators.

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