New York’s politicians are embarrassing New York
Last year when Eliot Spitzer’s transgressions first hit the limelight, New Yorkers felt, among other emotions, embarrassed. We had trusted the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” In our minds, he had become Albany’s great ethicist savior. “Could it get any worse,” we wondered, “than having a law-obsessed governor get busted for transporting prostitutes across state lines?”
Our elected officials have responded with a resounding “Yes!”
Quick question: what’s the only thing grimier than an Albany Democrat? If you answered, “an Albany Republican,” then you’re right.
After losing majority control of the Senate last November, for the first time in over four decades, Albany Republicans were desperate. For God’s sake, if they didn’t act fast, the Democrats were going to let gay people get married! If only they could convince two Democrats to switch sides, they could regain the majority and thwart those rascally voters. Perhaps in exchange for switching sides, they could award one of the Democrats with the Senate Presidency. But who would do such a thing?
Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate. That’s who.
New Yorkers are familiar with these guys already. We remember Monserrate from his arrest last year, on charges of assault, for allegedly slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken drinking glass during an argument.
Espada, we remember, is the guy who owes the New York State Finance Board $60,000, has not reported his campaign contributions to the New York State Board of Elections, and is under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office for possibly funneling state money to himself through a nonprofit he runs (it’s shocking how many New York politicians get caught employing this scheme).
The Republicans were so desperate for control of the Senate that they would actually let this guy be Senate President (that’s one step below Governor right now).
A Quick Note: I interviewed Espada while he was running in the Democratic Primary last year (against an even more corrupt incumbent), and I asked him about charges by his opponents that he was a “closet Republican.” He replied, “I’m in lock-step with Barack Obama in terms of the need to change.” At the time my thought was, “what the hell does that even mean?” Now I think I know. It means, “I’m just saying and doing whatever I think will give me the best shot at rapid ascension.”
This “coup,” by the way, was orchestrated by Tom Golisano, a billionaire from upstate New York, who was offended when the Democrat’s majority leader checked his Blackberry too many times while the two were meeting with each other.
Now, with Monserrate having switched back to the Democratic side, Albany is at a stalemate and all sorts of bills are in limbo. Bills like the aforementioned legislation regarding gay marriage, and a renewal of Mayoral control New York City Schools.
Speaking of the Mayor. How about that guy?
If you live anywhere near New York City, you’re aware that Mike Bloomberg is running for a third term. He has spent too much money for you to not know. You know because you’ve received dozens of paper pamphlets in your mailbox, ironically proclaiming how “green” Bloomberg is. And you know because one out of every three commercials on television right now features a heartwarming testimonial to how the City’s richest man has helped each of us during his first two terms in office.
But wait, a third term? Didn’t New Yorkers vote, not long ago, to limit mayors to two terms? Did New Yorkers vote to get rid of that limit?
No. Last fall, amidst the stock market tumble, Bloomberg announced that New York City needed him to see it through the financial mess. So he cut a deal with the City Council, who voted to allow him to run for a third term….also, they voted to allow themselves to seek a third term. Currently seeking an extra go-around, are many of the misfit names near the bottom of this list.
Bloomberg decided that giving the City’s laziest public servants a shot at another term was worth it for the City, if he could stay to guide it during rocky times.
Then in May, Bloomberg announced at a press conference that he was “very optimistic” about New York’s economy. But when a reporter asked whether that optimism challenged his reasoning for seeking a third term, the Mayor’s face grew red and he replied, “you’re a disgrace.”
It’s disgraceful to point out the fallacies of powerful whim.
The New York Times recounted other recent instances in which New York City’s top official behaved inappropriately at press conferences:
Since announcing his third term bid, he has publicly scolded a blogger in a wheelchair for accidentally turning on a tape recorder during a news conference. He called a question about his spending “ridiculous.” And he labeled an inquiry about a political rival a “waste” of a question.
“So maybe the guy’s crotchety,” you might be thinking, “it’s not like his administration has screwed anything up.”
No, you’re right. Unless of course the new stadiums count for anything. City Hall helped the Yankees and Mets acquire about $2 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The deals for the new Stadiums included an overvaluation of the new Yankee Stadium property by about four times its worth, a promise to replace the parkland that the new Stadium was built upon by opening day of this season (the replacement park is currently scheduled to be completed in two years or so), probable eminent domain acquisitions for “beautification” outside Citi Field, and of course, luxury boxes for City Hall at both stadiums.
New York is an ugly place for politics right now. From statewide officials to those at the most local level, there does not seem to be a clean resume to be found. State and City politics abounds with figures who attempt to frame their obviously self-serving rationales as for the “public good,” but their motives are clear to everyone watching. New York has problems, real problems, that only public servants can fix. But its biggest problem is that its politicians are too busy obsessing over themselves to even casually heed the demands of their jobs.