|Helen Foster in her district office on Jerome Avenue (File photo)|
She showed up at just 61.7 percent of her Council meetings in 2010.
In years gone by, Maria Baez usually headed the list of council members least willing to make the trip to City Hall. But with Baez gone (she was ousted by Fernando Cabrera in 2009), it looks like another Bronx politician has assumed top spot.
Foster told amNY that she had to travel out of state several times to visit ill family members - hence the no shows. (We linked to the article earlier in our news roundup.)
But the councilwoman, who took office in 2002, has been cutting meetings for years. From 2004 through part of 2008, she had the fifth worst record in the Council. She was also the subject of a Times article after she skipped the congestion pricing vote in 2008. She said she was in Las Vegas and that her flight back to New York was delayed.
In an interview with the Gotham Gazette in 2009, Foster, on the defensive again, insisted there was nothing wrong with her work ethic. She said her South Bronx district is more than 13 miles from City Hall, and she often has to choose between dealing with constituent issues in the Bronx or heading downtown.
For sure, attendance isn't the only criteria by which to judge an elected official's performance. But the numbers do say something about a council member's commitment, at his or her willingness to do the job. As the Gotham Gazette put it:
We may not be able to administer an IQ test or grade representatives on their loyalty to their districts, but we can see if they show up for the mandated semimonthly council meetings, the scores of hearings they are assigned to and check on how often they call their own committees to City Hall -- all of which is part of their job description.On a side note, Foster received just $80,000 in member item money in 2010, the lowest in the Council. (Member item money is money given to lawmakers to distribute to local groups they deem worthy of help.)
The small amount likely reflects her relationship (or lack of one) with Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Larry Seabrook, who was indicted last year on corruption charges, was also near the bottom of the pile with $80,000.