New York State Government: Let The Sun Shine In
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Follow me on Twitter @QueensTribune
It’s a stream of consciousness flowing through a sewer.
New York State politics continues to wallow in the muck.
The scandalously secretive process of three-men-in-a-room selection of AEG as the group to run the gazillion dollar video lottery terminal racino fell apart when the State Lottery Commission denied licensing because of unsavory members of the AEG combine.
The deal has been worse than unsavory since the State started bungling the process years ago.
And . . . that means at the moment there is another $300 million shortfall in the budget. These three men were counting their Aqueduct upfront chickens even though they knew it was foul.
Now they have to rush to make a decision to get the bucks in before considering another (very) late budget.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo hands off the two probes into the questionable behavior of Governor David Paterson. Paterson’s use of the State Police in the domestic abuse case of his once driver and then top advisor David Johnson and his World Series ticket-gate have been the subject of AG investigations and have left “credible issues to be resolved.”
Cuomo, able to almost taste the food in the governor’s mansion, was seeking shelter from the negative fallout bound to come from the ugly investigations and the racially charged political atmosphere being fostered by some, appointed the highly respected liberal Judith Kaye, former Chief Judge of the State’s highest court.
The Governor hangs on but remains insignificant in the governing process.
Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch – you’ll remember no one ever elected him to anything – tries to get on with the business of government by proposing a long-term financial plan for the State. Enabling the State to borrow $2 billion per year for 3 years with the objective of achieving a structurally balanced budget in 5 years he proposed the creation of a financial review board which could grant the governor exclusive power to close the gaps if it deemed the budget is out of balance.
Hey, is someone in Albany trying to make sense while everyone else is playing for themselves? Well sensible or not, a good idea or not, the dysfunctional legislature will have to go along and be willing to give up its absolute budgetary control that has almost bankrupted the state. Oh, and the accidental Governor will have to allow it to happen.
Richard Izquierdo-Arroyo, the grandson of Bronx Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo and nephew of Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo pleaded guilty to embezzling $115,000 in taxpayer money from the South Bronx Community Corp. Among other things, the money was used for: campaign donations to his grandmother, a new floor in her office, to hire interns for his aunt and grandmother, to purchase airline tickets for the elected pair, and to support his own lifestyle. Neither Arroyo has been charged.
Hold your nose.
It’s another case of elected officials family members being placed in charge of large not-for-profits and using the money to benefit themselves and their benefactors. And somehow, the folks who remain in office are not prepared to chastise the culprits.
They point to the good that member items do for the community and disregard the fact that we regularly see abuse and corruption with member item money and few are held accountable.
Is there anyone out there not expecting another elected official to be indicted related to member item money abuse?
The U.S. House of Representatives just took steps to eliminate earmarks to private corporations, addressing a part of their problem.
But the abusive behavior around member items continues at all levels of government and you can expect your elected to stop by a local civic meeting with a blow up of a check to show you how hard he or she is working for you.
By the way, that check is giving away your money.
Jose Peralta beat Hiram Monserrate and Robert Beltrani to become the 32nd Democrat in the State Senate – the magic number they need to control the house.
We wish the Democrats well and hope this time, they use their renewed majority to accomplish positive things for our state.
We wish Jose well and invite him to our office to address the several financial questions which he ducked during the campaign.
The state needs sunlight and integrity to change the Ablany culture.
The people should accept nothing less.
Governor Catches a Break, Cuomo Names Kaye
By HENRY STERN
Governor Paterson has at least temporarily escaped from the drumbeat of criticism and demands for his resignation that followed his intrusion in a domestic violence case and his efforts to cadge World Series tickets.
Other stories on State government issues, the Ravitch report which recommends billions of dollars in additional state borrowing in exchange for limiting future appropriations through a financial control board, and the guilty plea by David Loglisci, chief investment officer of the NYS Comptroller’s office under former Comptroller Alan Hevesi (which tightens the prosecutorial noose around Hevesi’s neck), have taken the place of the gubernatorial death watch, now indefinitely deferred.
Attorney General Cuomo, who undertook the investigation Feb. 24 at Governor Paterson’s telephoned request, announced that he was recusing himself from the case and appointing retired Chief Judge Judith Kaye to take over the inquiry.
What happened here is that, in response to Paterson’s request, Cuomo initiated the investigation and his staff worked on it for several weeks. They discovered what they believed was inappropriate behavior by the governor, but they had not yet come to a conclusion as to what do about it, and there were further potential witnesses who could be requested or subpoenaed to testify. Whether the governor’s phone call to the victim and the unsolicited contacts with the State Police rose to the level of criminality was a judgment call, and whatever decision was made would be subject to criticism. This is particularly true because of the racial aspect of the case, and because by the time the decision was made, the Attorney General was likely to be a candidate for governor, and whatever he did would be seen through a political prism. Also, Cuomo’s poll number started falling, not because of anything he did wrong, but because he had become involved in an unpleasant controversy. The bottom line is that you cannot be a competitor and a prosecutor in the same game; people don’t think it is fair.
The choice of Judge Kaye also raises issues which are inevitable when judges enter the political thicket, no matter how gingerly. First, she was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1983 and made Chief Judge in 1993, both by Governor Mario M. Cuomo, a party related to the current Attorney General. Second, she was retained by the Working Families Party in November 2009, when the WFP was under fire for intricate financial transactions with paper subsidiaries which may have been used to evade campaign finance laws. Third, as a relentlessly progressive and merciful judge, she is not likely to find too much fault with Governor Paterson. She could be considered the polar opposite of Ken Starr. On the other hand, Judge Kaye is widely regarded as honorable, and the fact that she is a woman may give her some sympathy for the complainant who was first beaten up by D.J. and then harassed by the State Police, before the governor personally assured her that he would support her, the day before she failed to show up in court, at which time the charges were dropped.
As far as the World Series allegations are concerned, they are relatively penny-ante. The Yankees should invite the governor to the World Series out of courtesy, and if codes of ethics prohibit that, they should be modified to conform to common sense. If the tickets cost $50 or thereabouts, it would be reasonable for the governor to pay for them himself to make a point, but to pay $850 for two seats is an unreasonable burden. It would look foolish for the governor to have to sit in the upper deck because of the price the Yankees charge for series tickets.
The governor was foolish to submit a check D.J. signed for him with a backdated signature, and even more so if he did not tell the truth about it. But if the lie is about his intention to pay, that is a very weak case for perjury. Who knows his state of mind? He probably intended to pay for the ticket if he was dunned for the money. In any event, it became an issue. The Yankees should have asked him to be their guest. It is likely that there were other invited guests on opening night of the World Series. At any rate, this is a reasonable use of campaign funds: intended to help the governor politically by presenting him at large public occasions, even if he is widely booed.
These side shows distract public attention from the budget abyss the state continues to face as time proceeds and the treasury empties. We suspect that the governor and legislators are so far behind schedule that they will not be able to make meaningful decisions by March 31, the date required by law for the adoption of the spending plan for next year. For 19 years out of the last 23 the state has failed to meet that deadline. The earth will not shatter (hopefully, not in New York) if the deadline is missed again.
What is particularly lamentable is the snail’s pace at which work is being done. With the Senate hopelessly divided, with neither party having the votes to pass anything, at least until the Monserrate vacancy is filled, it is highly unlikely that a majority can be assembled to make difficult decisions on the budget or any other subject. The longer the delay, the less money will be left in the coffers, and the deeper the cuts will have to be.
Unless the Ravitch plan postpones the day of reckoning to 2011.
La commedia non e finita.