Archive for the ‘Intergovernmental Reform’ Category

Mr. Smith Goes to Albany

I’ve admittedly been over-fascinated by the “coup” that took place in Albany yesterday. Interestingly, one of the potential scenarios if the Democrats were to regain control of the Senate places our own David Valesky at the top of the list to assume the position of fallen Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Although this is unlikely for the time being, if the Democrats do regain control of the chamber anytime within the next year or two, it is probable that Smith will be out as leader of the Democrats, and someone like Valesky will be in.

Rather than going on and on chronicling what happened yesterday (there’s great video over at Capitol Confidential) I’ve been thinking a lot about the dramatics of what happened. A couple of weeks back my wife and I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (for me it was about the tenth time, but it was my wife’s first viewing). Today I was watching through some of the video of what happened, and I discovered that the scene in Albany for the past couple of days must have mirrored what Frank Capra envisioned when he made Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Indeed, the characters in yesterday’s coup match up pretty closely with the characters in the movie.

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Jefferson Smith as played by Malcolm Smith: Bright-eyed, hopeful, ignorant of human nature.

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Senator Joseph Paine and Chick McGann as played by Dean Skelos and Pedro Espada (Hiram Monserrate as stunt double): Pawns who will eventually come to regret their roles.

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Jim Taylor as played by Tom Golisano: Arrogant, obsessed with power and control, his never-ending supply of money and clout allow him to be a player where he doesn’t belong.

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President of the Senate as played by Tom Libous: Vocal, yet largely unimportant.

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Governor Hopper as played by Governor David Paterson: Absent.

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Saunders as played by Angry Protesters outside Sen. Espada’s Office: Mad as hell and not going to be pushed around anymore.

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Diz Moore as played by the rest of us: dazed and confused, trying to sort out the mess.

I promise this will be my last post directly commenting on the situation in Albany, but it needs to be said again that a strong push for intergovernmental reform in our local and state politics is critical. Although Tom Golisano would have you believe this new government will be bi-partisan, the reality is that the new Senate chamber will be controlled by 30 Republicans and 2 Democrats who were power hungry and thirsty for some member items.


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Beware the Slow News Day…

These are the kinds of days I fear. Not much news this morning after a great weekend, just to be shocked back into reality by the announcement that the New York State Senate is now controlled by Republicans again, after a political coup by two NYC-area Democratic Senators.

The two defecting Senators are socially conservative Democrats: Hiram Monserrate of Queens and Pedro Espada of the Bronx. The Senators have apparently been upset with former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith’s leadership since the Democrats took control of the Senate after last November’s elections.¬†Pedro Espada was quickly appointed Senate President and Dean Skelos as Majority Leader. Espada’s defection comes after he had previously entered a power-sharing agreement which allowed Malcolm Smith to assume his leadership role this past January.

The immediate impact of this sudden change is major. As the NYS Legislature is winding down for the year, there are several important proposals left on the table that will probably not come to a vote, including a bill already passed in the Assembly which would legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

While the story has not yet been reported in this manner, I would not be surprised if the coup was pushed forward because of Malcolm Smith’s support of the same-sex marriage bill, and the traction the bill was gaining in the Senate. It was widely rumored that part of the power-sharing agreement previously entered into between Smith, Espada and Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. (another NYC-er) premised Smith’s role as Majority Leader on his agreement not to bring the same-sex marriage bill to the floor.

All of this cries out for the need of intergovernmental reform not just in our local politics, but in our state capital as well. By too many this coup will be viewed as business as usual in Albany. But for those of us who have been on one side of many of these bills that the Republicans will not support, the view is much more dismal. Just when we were so close to making some decent progress toward change, it seems we will fall back into the same partisan battles of yore.

If you are unhappy with these shenanigans, please feel free to comment below and discuss how we can begin to reform government at home, and in Albany.

UPDATE: The political junkie, Ken Rudin, certainly lends some credence to my theory regarding this afternoon’s defection.

Goal 2: Intergovernmental Reform

CityHall

Part two of our series on initial goes to promote progress and sustainability in Central New York focuses on intergovernmental reform. Here we will address the ways government needs to learn to work smarter, better and cheaper for its citizens. The question of intergovernmental reform may be answered if you think about the question: how long are we intending Project X to be around for? If the answer to that question exceeds ten years, then the project is really for our children and grandchildren, so the project should be approached with standards that will help it endure and be competitive for generations to come.

Ten Goals for Intergovernmental Reform

  1. Promote a unified effort by all local governments to ensure that all new projects which have municipal financial support are sustainable and geared toward the long-term growth and development of the community.
  2. All county and city legislative and judicial elections (and to the extent they remain, all town positions) should be non-partisan, i.e. candidates cannot identify with or accept money from local political parties. Our legislators and judges should be beholden to all of their constituents, not just the ones who write them checks in November.
  3. Consolidate municipal courts in towns and cities around Central New York. This will reduce cost and promote ease of administration in our judicial system.
  4. Restructure Onondaga County Legislature and Common Council to reduce number of seats to a number more consistent with other communities our size.
  5. Expect all legislators and politicians to pledge that any Federal stimulus money the area receives for infrastructure projects is to be used first for only necessary projects, and any surplus should be used to help Syracuse become a city of the future, and not a city of the past.
  6. Our community should have an organized and professional apparatus which lobbies consistently in Albany and Washington D.C. to bring more programs and funding to Central New York. We cannot rely on all of our local elected officials to make repeated treks to our capitals alone, we need professional assistance.
  7. Merge municipal police and fire departments into one Public Safety department. This will save on costs and also promote the uniformity of crisis response in our area.
  8. Reduce the overall size of government, retaining only those persons who are qualified to serve based on their merit, not based on their political affiliation.
  9. Eventually institute one (possibly a couple) regional governments throughout Central New York and eliminate the County/City/Town/Village apparatus as we know it in favor of smaller, more effective and efficient regional government.
  10. Strive in all that we do to promote Economic Sustainability (Goal 1) and Neighborhood Revitalization (Goal 3).

Welcome to Eyes On The Street

OpensignWelcome and feel free to check out our About page for a background on Eyes On The Street. Right away I think it’s important to establish what we hope to get out of this blog and this community. As a resident of Syracuse and Central New York, I believe we all basically want the same things: job security, affordable housing, quality education and safe streets. The trick is how do we make all that happen in a world that is changing by the minute?

The answer can be constructed by first identifying some basic goals. From there we can explore different strategies, steps and priorities to achieve those goals. The three goals that I believe we should all share are: economic sustainability, intergovernmental reform and neighborhood revitalization. You will see in later posts that from these three basic goals, we have the essential building blocks of a strong community.

I hope you will stick around for this journey, and I certainly welcome comments, suggestions and questions either in the comment section or by e-mail: eyesonthest@gmail.com.