Sheldon Silver: Not Part Of The Solution
This past weekend’s TV square-off between Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (right) and NBC News Forum’s Gabe Pressman (left) included an exchange about the contents of this column.
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I have two columns to share with you — but only room for one.
The first, which I promised last week, was to bring some closure to the Olympic Stadium location debate and an evaluation of the results of our sit-downs with Queens Olympic Committee spokesperson Brian Hatch, NYC2012 President Jay Kriegel and our scheduled meeting this week with Jay Cross, President of the New York Jets, the team that is paying for the Stadium at the center of the controversy.
While that issue seems to have us in a crossfire between old friend and former Trib editor David Oats who leads the Queens Olympic Committee advocating Willets Point for the stadium and our city fathers – what a strange description of a bunch of guys roughly my age — who are unyielding with their choice of a West Side Stadium, we still have puzzle pieces missing from the total picture.
Jets President Cross and his Veep for development, former Trib Action Desk reporter Matt Higgins, will be joining us in our office this week to clarify the Jets position on a Queens stadium. The Mets’ usually fine public relations operation has been very slow to respond to our inquiries about the possibility of a Mets/Olympic Stadium concept.
And we will also meet with Oats to evaluate whether there is a viable Queens plan or just a dream on the part of one of the best dreamers we know.
The pressures and forces at play here have caused us to think and rethink our position as to how our City can most effectively capture the Olympics in 2012. Those that would paint the situation as a no-brainer are either deceptive or are themselves void of the brainpower to distinguish a no-brainer.
Finally – on this topic, this week — we shall do what I promised to do last week: “Although I have mixed feelings about a number of the controversies that have been part of the NYC2012 Olympic bid process, I intend to keep my eyes on the prize: winning the 2012 Olympics.”
SILVER ON PRESSMAN
While I place my Olympic topic back on the shelf for another week, I share with you my reaction to one of my columns from last month being discussed by Gabe Pressman this past Sunday on NBC TV, “News Forum.” While interviewing Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the NYS Assembly, the following exchange took place:
PRESSMAN: A publisher named Michael Schenkler had a kind of a phony birthday cake celebration for the 20th consecutive year that the budget was late in Albany, and he—he sarcastically referred to the—to ‘you jokers.’ He said, ‘In private industry, you would all have been fired.’ Do you think that that’s a fair criticism of the legislative effort?
Rep. SILVER: No, I don’t think it’s a fair criticism, and I—I think we are attempting to do something to change it in—in terms of a budget reform amendment. But I—I think your viewers should really understand what the issue is. The governor presents a budget to the Legislature. It is then up to the Legislature to adopt something. Take this year. The Court of Appeals in—last June issued this decision about education. I said, ‘We have to deal with it.’ We had a deadline...
The interview went on and Silver pointed his finger at the governor. He made no mention of the previous 19 years of late budgets or of the fact that many of those late budgets were with a Democratic Governor, Mario Cuomo.
Silver, Mr. Commuter Tax Repeal, points to the State’s failure to adequately fund New York City’s schools and the court decision mandating that he, the Legislature and the governor do the right thing for NYC’s kids as the cause of this year’s late budget.
We insist the right thing should have been done in the first place and passing a budget which fairly provides for all of the state’s kids is part of the right thing.
But my friends, passing a budget before the start of the fiscal year is the operative business mandate here, and Silver neither addresses it nor apologizes for failure to appropriately provide an on-time financial game plan by which to run the state.
We live in the great New York State on the verge of bankruptcy – don’t let them fool you. Our deficits are so enormous that our children will be paying for them for their entire lives. And Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Governor George Pataki are the only players in the state with any power to do anything about it.
This horrendous legislative body permits their leaders to unilaterally make decisions without the advice and consent of the elected legislators. And more outrageously, these elected legislators allow this to go on in order to keep their lulus, perks and very special treatment afforded them by virtue of their support of the leadership.
The column (Not4Publication) that Pressman quote ran the first week of May this year, “Happy Anniversary: One For The Record Books!”
I wrote in part:
“I’m not really good at remembering things like birthdays and anniversaries.
Please forgive me if I don’t send you a card.
But when the celebration is one of those round numbers, I feel sort of badly when I miss one of them. Well, one of those landmark numbers came and went with little ado and now, almost a month late, I want to acknowledge the occasion and the fine people who achieved it.
My friends in the State Legislature please stand up! There are seven NY Senators from Queens and 18 Assemblymembers.
Come closer – this is your very special 20th Anniversary. April 1 — couldn’t have picked a better day if I scripted the whole thing myself — marked the 20th consecutive year that New York has failed to have an on-time State Budget.
Congratulations for the part that you have played. The 25 of you from Queens with the marvelous leadership of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, the void of Governor George Pataki and the mindless non-participation of your colleagues have achieved a record that on a nationwide basis might stand forever. However, as a tribute to the fine body in which you serve, we expect you to be back next year to smash that record to smithereens.
It’s all well and good I can make fun of the State Legislature and the late budget – I do it annually. But sadly, so do they. At least it doesn’t seem to bother anyone of the Albany ruling class.
As the calendar year began, some were predicting an end to the nation’s longest streak of late budgets. Then the reality of the math of a court decision ordering the Governor to stop short-changing New York City school children set in. And just like that, the finger pointing started and budget negotiations were put on vacation.
And Silver and Bruno and their counterparts continued the blame game.
And April 1 came and went and our New York State Legislature, instead of hunkering down to get the job done, agreed to a 12-day Easter/Passover vacation.”
And now another month has passed and the jokers who continue to point fingers have not corrected the court mandated city school funding inequity and are now some 70 plus days late with the State budget.
“In business, these jokers would have all been fired. You don’t begin a fiscal year without a budget in place. Not maybe . . . absolutely. But your elected officials do it year after year and you keep sending them back to do the job. And each year they do the same job . . . nothing.
The New York State Legislature clearly stands as the 50th best legislature in the nation. And it seems the only way they can change their position is by admitting a new State to the Union.
Their failure, by the way, extends far beyond the budget. The system just doesn’t work. The State Capital Building should be burnt to the ground and we should start from scratch. The body politic up there works very hard only to insure their reelection. The Repubs and Dems cut deals every 10 years allowing each to redistrict their seats so the same jokers return to Albany. And so they all come back. They reelect the same incompetent leaders and spend some time preparing newsletters to tell their constituents how hard they work and how much they do.
Think back – has your Assemblymember or State Senator ever sent a newsletter with the big headline: “I’m Sorry, I Have Failed You; State Budget Late Again!”
SORRY, MR. SILVER
I stand by my previous column. Speaker Silver’s excuses considered, he is a sorry excuse for a legislative leader.
He and Bruno, his Republican counterpart in the Senate, have brought shame and fiscal irresponsibility to the State Legislature. And with the help of our Governor have delivered to the people of New York State a debt that would stagger most of the world’s nations. And your elected Assembly members and State Senators are complicit in the crime.
Mr. Silver disagreed with my reference to the members of the legislative body as “jokers” and my statement that in private industry, they’d be “fired.” Silver was right. They are not “jokers,” they are “failures” and they shouldn’t be “fired,” they should be “shot”!
And somewhere in between, may he and his flock get what they deserve.