Thursday, June 11, 2009


New York politics--"Half of Albany is under indictment."

by Larry Geller

…The governor also made one of the more unusual pleas for sanity, imploring lawmakers to “think of the lobbyists”

Lucky we live Hawaii.

As kids living in Brooklyn, I never thought about state government. There was Borough Hall and of course the mayor and corrupt city government, and after that Washington, DC. England had a Queen, I remember, but that’s about it. Albany, the seat of state government, didn’t exist. It wasn’t even on the subway map.

It is hard to believe that New York has a state government at all today. I wrote Coup in New York legislature endangers same-sex marriage vote to highlight the civil rights issue. Since that coup the news has focused on the craziness around it.

What has been revealed about how Albany runs should cause anyone who believes in democracy to weep. Yes, if you click on any of the links below, you’ll see what we’ve learned since 1776.

For you geeks, there’s a Blackberry that played a crucial role in this coup. Read on.

First, the indictments. Two senators crossed the isle, you’ll remember, throwing control of the Senate to the Republicans. Both have been or are facing indictment:

Underscoring the antic nature of the leadership struggle, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spent the day courting Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat, who was indicted in March on charges of assaulting his companion with a broken glass.

Mr. Monserrate emerged at the end of the day to say he was still throwing his support behind a new leadership coalition controlled largely by Republicans.

Democrats threatened again to go to court to prevent Republicans from taking over the Senate and kept the ornate doors to the Senate chamber locked.

Mr. Espada also railed against his critics, calling attacks against him “way beyond the pale.” Mr. Espada has been fined more than $60,000 for failing to disclose his campaign contributions; the attorney general is investigating whether a nonprofit group he founded misappropriated money; and the Bronx district attorney is investigating whether his primary residence is in the district he represents.

[NY Times, Door Is Locked, and Senate Is in Gridlock, 6/11/2009]

Democrats have kept the Senate chamber locked, so no business has been conducted since the coup. They haven’t let the Republicans in to take over.

Estrada said he has the keys, though they couldn’t get him into the chamber today. He says he’s going to get in tomorrow. How, with a battering ram?

New York Governor Paterson had a good reason why they should open the doors. From the same article:

“This is getting a little ridiculous — they’ve got to act like adults here,” Gov. David A. Paterson lamented at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in his chambers on the second floor of the Capitol. He urged lawmakers to return to the Senate and settle the leadership fight, but he has been largely relegated to the sidelines.

The governor also made one of the more unusual pleas for sanity, imploring lawmakers to “think of the lobbyists,” explaining that they had worked hard “to persuade legislative leaders and legislators of issues.”

Yeah, this is sad for the lobbyists. I like who he thinks of first. Not the people, but the lobbyists. Sheesh.

Nearby, amid the crush of camera crews, a clown dispatched to the Capitol by The New York Post added to the carnival atmosphere.

An op-ed has more insight:

The Republicans plan to install Pedro Espada Jr., a much-investigated Democratic state senator who has turned breaking campaign laws into a second career, as the new president of the Senate. Also, next in line for governor. Espada represents a poor district in the Bronx, and his sympathy for his impoverished constituents’ hopes and dreams is so great that he sets an example of upward mobility by living in the suburbs. [NY Times, Bring On the Tarantulas,6/10/2009]

And check this out, a saga of stupidity (same op-ed):

The coup was engineered, at least in part, by Tom Golisano, a billionaire who has failed in repeated attempts to become governor, even after underwriting his own political party to provide the nominations. Golisano spent several million dollars helping the Democrats get their precious two-vote majority. In triumph, he traveled down from Buffalo to share his insights on how to resolve the state fiscal crisis with the new majority leader, Malcolm Smith. To Golisano’s outrage, Smith kept checking his BlackBerry while his patron was talking.

This is a truly shocking story. In this country, even presidential candidates nod thoughtfully while their deep-pocketed donors explain how all the nation’s problems can be traced back to the devaluation of the zloty. A six-term senator with an ego the size of a brontosaurus will sit mute, in apparent fascination, while the heir to an oil fortune reveals his plan to reduce crime by chopping off the fingers of shoplifters. Anybody who has been in politics for more than six minutes knows that the cardinal rule is to look interested when a rich guy is telling you his thoughts.

This guy Golisano really runs the place, it seems. What’s going on in New York makes all the effort this past session to control Hawaii legislator’s access to corporate money seem very worthwhile.

Golisano, who moved from Rochester to Florida this year after Democrats temporarily raised the state income tax on high earners, has promised campaign money for those who carry out his reform agenda. That includes the two Democratic senators who broke ranks to join the Republicans, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx - elected temporary president of the Senate Monday - and Hiram Monserrate of Queens.

Given the primary challenge the two Democrats can expect, that counts for a lot. But Golisano stressed that his political action committee, Responsible New York, "will be watching very carefully" to see if the new coalition keeps its promises.
He added his PAC will not bankroll legal bills for Espada, whose campaign finances are under investigation, or Monserrate, who has been indicted on felony assault charges. But he laughed off criticism of his building a takeover of the Senate on their support.
"The governor used drugs - what do you want from me?" Golisano asked, referring to Gov. David A. Paterson's acknowledgment last year that he had tried cocaine and marijuana in his youth. "Half of Albany is under indictment." [Newsday, Billionaire businessman helped GOP take back Senate, 6/9/2009]

New Yorkers may not like how their government is being run, but they can’t do anything about it apparently. One citizen did work her way close to Golisano to say:

"You bought our democracy! How dare you do that? Go back to Florida and screw up their state!" she shouted. "You are a disgusting human being!"

Let this be a lesson to us in Hawaii: we need to keep control of our government and work to improve it. I know that I’ll get some emails saying that developers and millionaires already control Hawaii’s government. The book, “Land and Power in Hawaii” is still a good read.

Still, I haven’t seen any Hawaii stories as good as what’s going on right now in NY. I know that the House locked the Senate out on the closing day of the session a couple of years ago, but that’s just small giggles. If you have any good tales, send ‘em this way.



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