Two weeks after losing a City Council leadership position, Councilmember Bobby Henon has secured two important committee chairmanships, regaining political clout while fighting a federal indictment.
Henon will replace Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez as chair of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections, an important role for his political base in the building trades unions. He will also retain his chairmanship of the Committee on Public Property and Public Works.
That made him one of the winners when Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Tuesday announced committee assignments for the next four-year term.
After being introduced, bills are referred to committees, which take testimony on the proposals and must approve them before they can return to the Council floor for final passage. Much of the behind-the-scenes work that shapes legislation, including most amendments, occurs in committees.
With the committee assignments, Henon is arguably poised to become more powerful in the next four years than he was in the previous term. Although the majority leader position Henon lost is a largely symbolic role, the committee assignments he won Wednesday carry direct power over significant legislation.
Henon’s good fortune came as a surprise to many, because Clarke was seen as a backer of Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker in the race for majority leader. Parker unseated Henon in a tight race this month amid discomfort from other members about voting for a colleague who has been charged in a case centering on alleged corruption within the local Electricians union.
Henon, the union’s former political director, and other officials with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 have pleaded not guilty in the case, which is expected to go to trial in the fall.
Quiñones-Sánchez, a Local 98 foe who is the only Council member to have called on Henon to resign from the body after the indictment, will retain her gavel in the powerful Committee on Appropriations and will also become chair of the Committee on Education.
Councilmembers Derek Green, who will take over the Finance Committee, and Kenyatta Johnson, who now leads the Committee on Rules, are also poised to see their influence rise over the next four years.
Among those less lucky in the committee selections were Helen Gym and Kendra Brooks, who are expected to be the two progressive stalwarts of the next session. During Clarke’s tenure as president, each of the 17 Council members has been guaranteed to chair at least one committee. Gym and Brooks, who have both said they have no problem playing the roles of outsiders in Council, will lead two of the less influential panels.
Brooks, a freshman from the Working Families Party who fought the GOP and Democratic establishments alike to win her seat, will chair the Committee on Intergenerational Affairs and Aging. Gym, the only Council member who endorsed Brooks in last year’s election, will retain her chair on the Committee on Children and Youth.
Gym will be one of only two non-freshman Democrats to lead only one panel. The other, Mark Squilla, picked up the chairmanship of the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development after losing the top role on the Committee of Streets and Services to freshman Isaiah Thomas.
Council will hold its first working meeting of the new session on Thursday.
Here is the full list of committee chairs for the next four years, excluding panels that include all members of Council: