Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

A New York State of Mindlessness

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 9, 2009

Unless you’re a New Yorker or a hopeless political geek, you probably have no idea what’s going on in America’s most dysfunctional capital, Albany. Suffice it to say that New York is making governance in Minnesota, Florida and California look rational.

After decades of GOP control of the State Senate and Democratic control of the State Assembly, the dynamic went out the window with a slight Democratic majority taking the Senate after the last election. While many Dems were thrilled, I cringed a bit; you see, the State Senate is where New York’s Democratic Party puts its red headed stepchildren. If you can raise money but can’t put ten words together to make a sentence, Congratulations! You’re going to run for State Senate! If you’re from an important political family but flunked out of a public high school… we have a Senate District for you! Basically, and with a very few exceptions, the Democrats have used the Senate as a dumping ground for idiots as they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s nothing less newsworthy, nothing more obscure than a Democratic State Senator. They’ve always been buried in the minority in a legislative body where majority members with years of seniority have absolutely no influence on what the Majority Leader is going to do; it makes the Gingrich-led GOP Congress of old look positively democratic.

Here’s where the problem comes in– when you take the majority after such a long drought, the radioactive waste that you surreptitiously dumped in the Chamber is still around and now– the horror– has become relevant and has access to the press. All of a sudden you have guys like Hiram Monserrate, a former corrupt cop and current corrupt Senator under indictment for felony assault on his girlfriend suddenly becoming the most important politician in New York State government.

To make a painfully long story short, the Democratic Majority Leader, Malcom Smith, maneuvered his way into the post by holding the Senate hostage in what, at the time, was one of the more bizarre scenes in Albany’s sordidly comic political history. Two of those held hostage, the aforementioned corrupt cop (known in the New York tabloid press as “The Thug”) and Pedro Espada (similarly known as “The Thief”) engineered a coup by which they put a Long Island Republican in as Majority Leader, deposing the hated Malcom Smith, possibly illegally. This set off an amazing spectacle– Senators locking themselves in the Chamber and in their offices, important laws being allowed to expire because the Senators couldn’t all get together and achieve a quorum to vote on them because it would’ve led to enormous political procedural problems, name calling, sit-ins, sessions held on the lawn in front of the Senate, just a god awful mess that even seasoned New York political observers, used to the most bat shit crazy behavior in the world, couldn’t believe.

Now, New York State’s simpering dolt of a Governor, David Paterson, has wandered into the fray. You may remember Governor Paterson’s emergence as Governor when former Governor Elliot Spitzer got himself nailed for nailing a $3,000 per hour hooker in DC and resigned, making Lieutenant Governor Paterson the new Governor. The “Lieutenant Governor” post is beyond insignificant, by the way– generally Lt. Gov’s only make the papers when they take a swing at someone on stage (yes, that happened) or when their persona of a politically schizophrenic academician causes them to get dumped from a ticket. The post is so insignificant that there is no provision in the New York State Constitution for replacing a Lieutenant Governor, leading to the current chapter in New York’s political tragi-comedy– David Paterson, with no legal authority according to his own Attorney General (and, to be sure, Gubernatorial Primary Opponent) Andrew Cuomo, has appointed a crusty old-school New York politico by the name of Richie Ravitch to be his Lieutenant Governor with the intention of him somehow breaking the Senate deadlock even thought the NYS Constitution seems to make clear that being unelected Ravitch could have no vote… even if he was legally occupying the Office of the Lieutenant Governor… which apparently he is not.

You can’t make this stuff up– a wildly unpopular governor illegally appoints a Lieutenant who can’t do what needs to be done from the office to a legislative body that would have been dismissed by the principal if they tried to pull this crap when they were the fourth grade Student Council. Oh, did I mention that when a Republican walked through one of the Democratic rump sessions in the Chamber  on his way to the Coke machine the Dems marked him “Present”, declared that they had a quorum and started pasing legislation willy-nilly that the Governor then vetoed because said Republican Senator, a most unpleasant alleged human being by the name of Frank Padavan, managed to put together his longest conversation in years and informed the Governor in two sentences (and, knowing Frank, 117 grunts) that he just wanted a Coke, not to upend (reupend? re-re-upend?) the New York State Government.

I have never been prouder to not be associated any longer with the New York State Legislature, and that’s saying something if you knew the guy I worked for when I was there.

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3 Responses to “A New York State of Mindlessness”

  1. B-Fly said

    It’s been terribly pathetic. Even though Mayor Mike made tough cuts that, combined with tax increases, would have led to a workable budget during the current economic crisis, the whole budget is now in jeopardy because the Senate can’t even get its act together enough to pass the sales tax increase that both Republicans and Democrats understand is necessary. Even bills that would pass close to unanimously are dead because the Senators refuse to share the chamber and vote.

  2. Bob Kohm said

    Have you guys figured out how to elect Community School Boards before 2010 yet? 🙂

  3. B-Fly said

    LOL. Like we really want to do that. The new “Board” delegated more power to the Chancellor than he’d have had under the Assembly bill.

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