I. Daneek Miller, head of the union that represents NYC Transit’s bus drivers and mechanics in Queens, has announced his candidacy for the City Council in the 27th District.
Miller, 51, is president of Amalgamated Transportation Union Local No. 1056, and is co-chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Labor Coalition, which represents 29 unions and 60,000 workers.
“I was just re-elected to another three-year term, and we’ve accomplished a lot with the union,” Miller said in an interview on Tuesday. “Some of my friends have asked, ‘Why would you want to do this? You’ve already got a good gig.’
“I think this would be an opportunity to enhance that success to help more people,” he said.
One instance he cited was the union’s efforts to restore bus service on routes eliminated during the fiscal crunch of 2010.
“The issue appeared to be dead, and then this past January, we were able to get five routes restored,” he said. “And in some cases we and the city were able to enhance the service to where it was better that it was before.”
Miller said he never thought of running for the newly redrawn 27th District, which will have much of the district now served by Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). He said Comrie last summer asked him to a meeting with a few supporters.
“I thought it was to talk about his run for borough president,” Miller said. Instead, Comrie, who is being forced out of the Council by term limits, sought to recruit him as a potential successor.
“I asked because I thought he’d be a good candidate,” Comrie said in an interview Tuesday night.
Miller came through the ranks as a bus driver before working his way up to serve as an officer in the union.
And he said Joe and Joan Queens do not have to fear that a union leader on the Council would lead to unwarranted outrageous and expensive giveaways to the city’s organized labor groups.
“I’ve lived and worked in this district for 25 years,” Miller said. “A lot of my members live in this district. They are homeowners and taxpayers. They want good services in return for their tax dollars just like every other taxpayer. They want to see that their tax dollars are spent properly. I know how to get things done for working people and their families. That includes making sure every tax dollar we send in comes back in terms of services.”
And he said city union members are very attuned to the need for shared sacrifice in tough economic times.
Miller added that by definition, the head of a municipal transit union gains extensive experience in dealing with government both in City Hall and Albany, either supporting a bill he considered beneficial, or trying to top one he considered bad.
He did not yet have one particular bill in mind that he would pursue immediately upon being sworn in if elected to the Council in November.
But education, he said, is the biggest concern in the 27th, if not the entire city.
“They are talking about closing schools, and some of them are in southeast Queens,” he said.
The candidate said he does not necessarily agree with the view of Mayor Bloomberg that the underperforming schools need to be closed.
“Close the schools and replace them with what?” Miller asked. “The students are still going to the same building and will have some of the same problems. Something still has to be done. Whether I agree with Mayor Bloomberg or not on mayoral control [of the city’s schools] or closures, the very fact that we are even talking about closing schools means there is a problem that has to be addressed.”