A new coalition in Albany

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In order to ensure the fiscal integrity New Yorkers deserve, keep our communities safe and give our children the best education, lawmakers in Albany must pass proactive bills immediately. The clock is ticking for the state, and the new coalition has the opportunity to prove that the people elected are those best suited to the job.

Which brings me to my next point. Of the coalition, the New York Times’s Thomas Kaplan wrote an article titled, “G.O.P. Senate Deal: Diversity Takes a Back Seat to Power in Albany.” While the article recognized New York as one of the most diverse states in the nation, with minorities accounting for more than 40 percent of its population, it pointed out that all of the statewide elected officials are white. The article further explained that nearly all of the coalition members who will now have the majority in the Senate are also white lawmakers. The Times claimed that this has left many minority leaders feeling that the political power given to them by the voters is “slipping away.”

Not surprisingly, the Rev. Al Sharpton has jumped into the mix, calling on civil rights leaders to rally. Senator Klein has stated that the Independent Democratic Conference is not an exclusive club, and is open to “all senators who are serious about governing.”

Klein is exactly right. The diversity critics failed to recognize that one of the five Democratic members who joined the coalition is Sen. Malcolm Smith, an African American. Why was this fact disregarded? Most important, it is the people of New York who decide at the ballot box who will represent them in Albany. One would think we elect people based not on race, but on talent and credibility.

We don’t deserve to go back to the aforementioned period of dysfunction. The current leadership has taken steps in the right direction, though we are still in a vulnerable position. The new coalition government must continue to work with the governor to bring fiscal security back to our state and lower tax rates.

At this point, Albany must put self-indulgent claims like this aside and focus on the upcoming legislative session and the state’s agenda. Distractions like this will only set us back.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.

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