Saddest Of These: ‘It Might Have Been’
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" -- John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), American journalist, abolitionist and poet.
In New York State politics, some things never change.
*Reformers dream that there will be reform and are invariably disappointed.
*The NYS Legislature is the most dysfunctional of any state legislature in the nation.
*Lobbyists, big money, pork, gerrymandering and self-serving deals take precedence over the good of the people when the state legislature acts.
*The guy who sits atop each house has absolute control dispensing lulus, member items, staff and more.
*And, "The Bear Mountain Compact" which says that if sexual promiscuity occurs north of the Tappan Zee Bridge (Bear Mountain), it is not discussed downstate, not even by the New York press.
For the first time in my 40 plus years of observing New York State politics, it seemed that some of these truisms would change. Reformer Eliot Spitzer elected with a 70 percent mandate, went to Albany vowing to make government responsive to the needs of the people. He set out to topple the Republican Senate Majority Leader and bring change to the dysfunctional process.
It didn't take long for the dysfunctional process to get the best of Spitzer and his self righteous arrogance. Long before he was caught with his pants down, his self described "f-ing steamroller" met the immoveable force of Albany dysfunction and ground to a snails pace.
Then, seemingly with the help of Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, the Spitzer prostitution story broke and the steamroller fell into a chasm of ignominy.
It was goodbye Eliot - except for the snickers and prosecution watch, and hello David.
I had interviewed Paterson, just days before his election as Lieutenant Governor. I knew him to be as much a reformer as Spitzer. He was however, humble, low-key, gracious and part and parcel of the Albany legislative system. To me and to many others, he was a man of principal in the right place at the right time. David Paterson could quietly and effectively change the unchangeable. He could make the immoveable Albany force yield to good government and the will of the people. He would take the moral high ground and work with his former colleagues to bring reform. He would do with people skills, what the "f-ing steamroller" couldn't do with force.
And then, just hours after his swearing in as the 55th Governor of New York State, he began to erode one of the unchangeable Albany covenants - the Bear Mountain Compact. His sexual exploits became fair game for the Press. And soon it was not just one affair but they began coming out of the woodwork. And apparently, campaign finance records had to be "corrected" so as to keep the new governor on the proper side of the campaign compliance law.
Three questions came to mind:
1) Will the disclosure of the new governor's affairs, his actions to secure work for, or improve the employment situation of his female friends, or the use of campaign or state money in connection with these affairs, bring down the new governor?
2) Will these disclosures undermine the authority and prevent Paterson the reformer from bringing about the critical change so needed in Albany?
3) Will the sexual exploits long-rumored to be the way of life with legislators and staff in Albany become fair game in the press?
We are fairly certain Paterson is going nowhere. He has an insurance policy standing behind him named Joe Bruno. The GOP Senate Minority Leader is next in line for governor and has been as big a part of the Albany dysfunction as anyone. He is also the subject of an on-going Federal investigation into financial wrongdoing.
While like all reformers, we continue to dream. We however fear that Paterson has lost the moment and the momentum to lead this state out of the darkness of dysfunction. We can only root and hope that his indiscretions are momentary bumps in the road and the business and needs of the state drives the new governor to overcome.
As long as there is no work to do on the part of the legislators and no accountability for what they do, the Albany affairs will continue (yes, with State employees) but that is not the real problem and so the press and Albany leadership will likely continue to look the other way.
In New York State politics, some things never change.
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Line of Succession For New York Governors
HENRY J. STERN
When David Paterson was sworn in as the 55th governor of New York State, he received an enthusiastic reception from a joint session of the legislature. What we did not know was that a few hours later, the new governor and his wife would hold a press conference dealing with mutual marital infidelity. The pair answered questions from the press and said they had come to a difficult period in their marriage, stayed together for the sake of the children, and are now in love again.
Then, another woman came forth. Apparently Diane Dixon, who won an Olympic gold medal while on the United States track team in 1984 in Los Angeles, said she had taped conversations with Mr. Paterson. He recommended her for several positions in the Department of Education. She was supposed to have been hired for one of the jobs, but has not started work yet. Mr. Paterson said yesterday that "any conversation she said she recorded with me could be played in this room and it wouldn't be interesting." He added: "I know her, not that well."
He knew her well enough, however, to recommend her for a number of non-teaching positions. It is difficult to conceive that Mr. Paterson is the only public official who calls the Department of Education to help someone find a job.
One consequence of Mr. Paterson's elevation is that the next in line to be governor is the temporary president of the state Senate, Joseph Bruno, who has held that position since 1995, when newly-elected Governor Pataki and Senator D'Amato secured it for him.
Senator Bruno has repeatedly been described in the press as facing indictment for a variety of allegedly corrupt transactions, but so far he has escaped prosecution, and it is possible that he will never be charged.
If, however, Mr. Bruno became governor, and was subsequently forced to leave office, whether for legal entanglements or for reasons of health - he was born in April 1929 - the next in line is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has held that position since 1994 with increasing authority.
The denouement of this series of untimely events could be the accession of Shelly Silver as the 57th governor of New York State. A strong governor might control a dysfunctional legislature.
A Silver regime may cure the paralysis which has affected state government through decades of split responsibility and partisan conflict. However, it raises the issue of whether the taxpayers and voters of the state would be better off with a divided, enfeebled legislature and governor than with officials who could really injure the people by their devotion to the special interests, labor, and business, and their persistent lobbyists, who in fact constitute the permanent government of the Empire State.
What Lies Ahead?
The names of additional attractive women have been added to the list of those associated with Governor Paterson's previous campaigns. Some women were paid money for unspecified services, others received the benefit of his intervention with public agencies on their behalf. It appears that the bookkeeping for Paterson's campaign was not complete. Nor is it clear just what campaign he was required to conduct, since in the general election of 2006 his name was paired on the ballot with Governor Spitzer. There was no primary that year for lieutenant governor because Paterson's seven opponents all diplomatically withdrew.
We believe that private sexual activity by consenting adults is not the business of the state and should not seriously impact a public official's ability to perform his duties.
The governor, by his frank statement put the issue before the public. If his disclosure was full and complete, he made a wise move. If, however, it was fragmentary, and additional revelations emerge, he will get no credit for either candor or fidelity. If, as a consequence of his conduct, the governor is not held in high regard, it will be even more difficult for him to influence the legislature.
Several sophisticated readers have inquired if, on the resignation or incapacity of Governor Patterson and the consequent assumption of the governorship by Senate Leader Bruno, with Speaker Silver waiting in the wings, the Republicans could do anything to forestall Democratic recapture of the executive branch should Bruno falter in health or be terminated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
It has been suggested that the Republicans could elect another temporary president of the Senate, succeeding Governor Bruno. His elevation would reduce the Republicans' edge in the Senate to 31 - 30, which means that the switch of a single vote could result in the election of a Democrat. Senator Carl Kruger (D- Bklyn) has been reported as ready to vote with the Republicans to organize the Senate, so more than one R to D turnover could be required.
On the other hand, the November elections are getting closer every day. In view of the last two Democratic election victories, after 43 years in control of the upper chamber, and considering the aging of many Republican senators, there is a strong possibility that the Democrats will pick up a number of seats in 2008, which could give them control of the Senate.
If they hold these seats until the 2011 redistricting, they will have the opportunity to undo the Republican gerrymanders of the last four decades, and draw more favorable lines, under which Republicans would almost never have the opportunity to regain Senate control.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato