Hoist the Jolly Roger By Henry J. Stern

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Stern_HenryJ Senate Democrats Find Agreement at Lowest Common Denominator;
Desire for Power, Perks and Pork

The Albany farce closed on its 32nd day, July 10, 2009, with a complete victory for the hijackers.

Ending the month-long impasse, renegade Pedro Espada rejoined the Democrats, receiving a position he had previously been denied, Majority Leader. Malcolm Smith was kicked upstairs to President of the Senate, while John Sampson became conference chair.

By executing his double double cross, Espada appears to be Master of the Senate, even though his colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, may despise him. Many people didn’t like Stalin, either, but that didn’t stop him from ruling the Soviet Union until he died.

Governor Paterson comes out of this with a stronger hand, for finally acting to appoint a Lieutenant Governor to try to break the deadlock.  He had no authority to fill a vacant elective office, but he can appoint anyone to his staff and give him whatever title he fancies. We hope that Paterson takes advantage of Ravitch’s abilities to assist him in managing the executive branch, which has needed more coordination since the departure last fall of the talented Father Charles O’Byrne.

Appropriately, the siege of the Democratic Party in the Senate ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, as party leaders met the terms imposed by the pirate Espada.

The thirty-one hostages were released, and allowed to resume their leadership positions. The exception, of course, was Malcolm Smith, the former captain, whose place will be taken by the prime mutineer, Pedro Espada, Jr. of The Bronx, the first Latino to achieve such eminence in New York State.

The Democrats will continue to spin, possibly proclaiming, or hinting, that Espada will be leader in name (and lulu) only, and that the real decisions will be made by the new Conference leader, Senator John Sampson.  Watch Sampson try to cobble together the 32 votes needed to pass legislation.  He will need every amigo, every blue dog, every red dog, every yellow dog, every lame dog and every corrupt dog in the razor-thin Democratic party.  How much each vote will cost him and the lobbyists, is an open question.

Among the Senators who appear to have lost prestige are the so-called Reform Democrats who, despite their professions of higher ethical standards, never publicly distanced themselves from the least reputable members in their party.  Nor did they ever issue a statement of their own principles or beliefs. They did not join with the June 8 Republican majority, even though it would have given them the best opportunity to pass the gay marriage bill, to which they all give lip service.  They just spun their wheels for a month, until Espada returned to the reservation, thus rendering them irrelevant.

The Daily News captured the issue in their lead editorial, ZERO FROM ZEROES.  We quote:

“And so it ended as it began, with a dirty, dastardly, disgraceful deal by a pack of self-important dunces who accomplished precisely nothing positive after making a mockery of the state Senate for 31 days.

“The Democrats put the house back in operation not only by welcoming back into their fold the traitorous, treacherous Pedro Espada, but also by rewarding his extortion with a promotion to majority leader….

“Those who pretend to self-respect – senators like Tom Duane, Eric Schneiderman and Liz Krueger – ought to be mortified that they are captained by a creep, and that they have lacked the guts to raise a peep in objection.”

The  New York Post editorial, NOW COMES THE HARD PART, discussed the fiscal problems that face the legislature.  Their lede referred to the recent unpleasantness:

“Pedro Espada, The Bronx state senator who double-crossed fellow Democrats to join with Republicans and paralyze Albany for a month, yesterday ended the crisis – by double-crossing the GOP.   A quadruple-cross!  You don’t see that every day.”

Newsday's editorial today also covered the turnabout, ONCE AGAIN, IT’S ESPADA.  The lede:

“It’s over, and the slipperiest deal-cutter won.

“That man is Sen. Pedro Espada of The Bronx, whom Senate Democrats embraced yesterday as their new majority leader.  Just last week, Democrats were saying that they could never accept the ethically challenged Espada back from across the aisle.  Now, they have judged him fit to lead them.”


"La Commedia e Finita", for the moment anyway.  Espada and his companion Monserrat are the clear winners, jumping the Falls and successfully returning. They hope to do as well with the juries they may face as they did with their fellow legislators, but it is their colleagues who are their peers more than the public. Cruger and Diaz, their amigo associates, also fared well. As usual, the sheep were the losers…

A question remains: If the Senate ever gets back to work, who will be the third man in the room with Governor Paterson and Speaker Silver?

When I, as City Councilman at Large, visited the office of Deputy Mayor Stanley Friedman in 1975, he had a sign on his wall: “Crime Doesn’t Pay – As Well as Politics.”

After watching Albany in 2009, I understand what he meant.  The plot is the same.  Nothing has changed but the names of the characters.

Henry J. Stern writes as StarQuest. Direct email to him at StarQuest@nycivic.org. Peruse Mr. Stern’s writing at New York Civic.

eHeziHoist the Jolly Roger By Henry J. Stern

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