Troubling: Paterson’s Future & Monserrate’s Fate
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
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The trials and tribulations of Governor David Paterson have so dominated the NY State political scene that little else remains.
The budget clock is ticking; the huge budget deficit is growing daily; and the financial crises sit on the back burner while the “accidental governor” makes the rounds to preserve the remainder of the Spitzer term in office for himself.
The distraction meter is out of control.
In a normally bad dysfunctional NY State government, the dysfunction of the Paterson Executive branch and the distraction it has caused has surpassed this summer’s NY State Senate three-ring circus caused by Amigo Monserrate and compatriots – more on him later.
It seems nothing matters while we in the media and even the people in the streets shake their heads in disbelief as each new chapter in the Paterson incompetence is revealed.
We said last week: “We believe David Paterson to be a damn decent person who entered public service for the right reasons. . .”
“David Paterson failed and failed miserably. He bumbled and stumbled almost every step along the way. He has a sight handicap and early on lost his chief advisor. Even if he had no bad breaks and no handicaps, he may not have been up to the task. But David Paterson’s missteps should not be what our governor is remembered for. We hope history and the future is good to him.”
Current news is not good for the failing governor. The static, blunders and resignations have overwhelmed an administration that was never up to the task.
This is not, as a Sharpton-led meeting of minority leaders would have you believe, an issue that is race-related.
Competence knows no color. Dysfunction is non-discriminatory.
Those who call for Paterson to step down for the good of the State, so that we can get back to business (were we ever there?), do so recognizing that the present administration has ground to a halt and has little hope of finding resuscitation anywhere.
Now, New York at a standstill is nothing new, but we wonder if perhaps a well-intentioned David Paterson would want more for the State he has sworn to serve.
No, we’re not calling for his head over two or three World Series tickets. Nor are we pre-judging the difference between illegality and stupidity in the David Johnson incident.
We are merely judging the Paterson administration’s record of performance and conclude it’s time for an immediate change.
A questionably-appointed-by an-accidental-governor LG Dick Ravitch is likely to do much more for New York State, its budget and future finances than even an non-handicapped Paterson administration ever could. Under the present circumstances of multiple Paterson-gates, there is no doubt.
It is time for the Governor to resign, and for the rest of the government to go to work on the real problems of the State.
One campaigner for Jose Peralta’s effort to replace Hiram Monserrate in the Senate wrote: “Let’s bring honor and integrity back to the 13th State Senate district.”
Sadly, electing Jose Peralta does not do that. Jose is involved in a campaign account scam hiding thousands of dollars of illegal money by filing false instruments. He refuses to discuss the matter with this newspaper. He has failed to return calls to schedule an interview as a candidate. He is an apparent crook who is about to capitalize on the disgraceful behavior of Hiram Monserrate who made no friends in insider circles as he fought for his community and also himself personally.
Hiram sat in my office last week and asked: “Would the paper possibly endorse me?”
I replied to Hiram, “If I were writing the endorsement today, I would say ‘the 13th Senatorial District pits a thug against a crook, welcome to New York.’”
While we expect Peralta to win, we would not consider casting a vote for him. It is clear to us he continues to cover up his wrongdoing, shows no contrition and is unprepared to allow an up-close review of his financial wrongdoing. We have enough of such people in State government.
While supporting Hiram Monserrate would be difficult enough in light of his clearly abusive incident, he has compounded our reason to keep him out of the State Senate by voting against the Marriage Equality Bill.
It seems to us that in the likely event that Peralta wins next Tuesday, we will see Monserrate run and win Peralta’s former Assembly seat where his Marriage equality stance will have no meaning in a house overwhelmingly committed.
And at the end of the day, the people of Jackson Heights will have gotten themselves both the crook and the thug.
Welcome to New York.
Ethics Panel Charges Paterson On $1,700 Series Tickets
By HENRY STERN
Events in Albany are unfolding so rapidly that this column may be outdated before you read it. It still may be helpful to get a snapshot of the situation as of my writing.
The New York Times reported: “The state Commission on Public Integrity charged Gov. David A. Paterson with violating state ethics law when he secured free tickets to the opening game of the World Series for himself and others. The announcement came as the governor, already mired in scandal, met with his cabinet and insisted he would stay in office.
“In addition to violating the state’s ban on gifts to public officials, the commission found that Mr. Paterson falsely testified under oath that he had intended to pay for the tickets for his son and his son’s friend. The commission determined that Mr. Paterson had never intended to pay for the tickets, and only did so after inquiries from the media, after which he submitted a backdated check as payment.
“The commission had referred the case to the Albany County District Attorney, P. David Soares, as well as Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo is already investigating Mr. Paterson’s role in allegedly trying to suppress a domestic-violence case involving a close aide, David Johnson.”
The immediate question is whether Governor Paterson will yield to newspaper editorials and resign his office. The answer to that question is: No. He will not resign voluntarily, or for the good of the Democratic Party. He would only resign in a plea deal to avoid criminal prosecution, and that is a highly unlikely event.
The twist here is that his potential prosecutor is Andrew Cuomo, the putative next governor, who would have defeated Paterson in a Democratic primary. Now that he is to some extent the arbiter of Paterson’s fate, he must be careful not to appear vindictive or overly aggressive. There is room for prosecution in Paterson’s conduct, but there are also good reasons to leave him alone. To bring criminal charges against New York’s first black (and blind) governor for an inappropriate telephone call would place a heavy burden on the accuser.
That is not to excuse the governor. What he did was dead wrong and worthy of censure. It is not a high crime. Whether he realized it or not, he should not have called the complainant, or arranged for her to call him. He should not have called on the State Police or anyone else to question or harass the victim. His loyalty to his aide, companion, gatekeeper and protector is understandable, but his political interference in the case is indefensible. He should have advised D.J. to get a good lawyer, or asked his father, who is a very good lawyer, to recommend a lawyer to handle the case. What he did demonstrates a lack of understanding of how government works, but it is not an impeachable offense unless enough people make it so.
It is clear that Mr. Paterson’s ability to function as governor is limited, but that was true before this incident occurred, and lack of effectiveness is not a high crime or misdemeanor. He tried to solve the Senate conflict last summer, but was frustrated by the intransigence of the warring parties. His appointment of Richard Ravitch as Lieutenant Governor, in part to break the Senate deadlock, was considered by many, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, to be unconstitutional, but with the help of Speaker Sheldon Silver, it was determined to be lawful. In this, as in other cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, outcomes are hard to predict.
Public opinion polls show a large majority to believe that Mr. Paterson is not doing a good job, but they also feel he should not be removed from office. We concur that it would be wrong to remove even an unelected governor for ineffectiveness. On the other hand, it would be fascinating to see what Richard Ravitch would do if he had the opportunity to run New York State for 300 days. From the viewpoint of those seeking necessary change and state government and finance, Ravitch would be much more interesting and likely to be more productive than 300 more days and nights of a beleaguered long-suffering Paterson. However, that result is unlikely at this time, in part because many politicians prefer a weak governor than one who just might be strong. We do not know, however, what new revelations of misconduct are in store, and therefore cannot predict the denouement of this tragicomedy.
The judgment of the political community is usually to stick with what you have. If the standard for removal from office were inappropriate telephone calls, we could lose a large part of the legislature. So although no one can predict if there is another shoe that can be dropped, the likelihood is that the governor will be around for the rest of the year. How he will close the newly increased budget gap ($8.9 billion) is a question which is above my pay grade.