Guest Column

Stop the shenanigans


In the course of producing guest columns for the Herald, I’ve had an opportunity to review the political machinations in Albany in some detail. My first eight columns left little doubt that a wide range of serious problems preclude the possibility of an effective, efficient government.

Our newly elected governor addressed these concerns in his “State of the State” message, promising to get the state’s fiscal house in order; radically redesign our governmental structures and operations and restore integrity and performance to state government. In particular, he envisions the transformation of a government known for dysfunction, gridlock and corruption, to a government of performance, integrity and pride. An interesting set of metaphors displayed on a banner of hope for all to see.

“Albany’s fiscal crisis and the road to redemption,” published on Jan. 13, leveraged the address, emphasizing what is actually required to restore confidence in our broken political process. Five additional columns commented on the shenanigans evident in dealing with both the budget deficit and the process.

Assuming your interest in the subject of reform, it is fair to ask if we are any better off today than when all of the exuberance expressed made headlines. Even more importantly, is there any way we can really assess performance? My next three columns will examine this question in detail, focusing on key stakeholders’ accomplishments in the reform process. For now let’s do an overall assessment.

Two hot topics are making news. In an attempt to stem the ruinous growth in New York’s public pensions, to his credit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to create a new pension tier that would save billions over the next 30 years, a grand plan that hardly addresses the absurdities of the current system. Ethics reform is equally disingenuous, with a 113-page bill that would require lawmakers to disclose only new client relationships “brought” in after 2012. Ultimate decision-making authority would rest with a new 14-member oversight committee controlled by the very leadership subject to ethics reform. Shenanigans personified.

I received a call two weeks ago alerting me to a news release that mentioned that 15,824 bills were introduced in the past legislative session, a fraction of which became law. Statistics from the New York Public Interest Research Group reveal frightening numbers: only 14 percent of the bills introduced by Assembly members passed; only 10 percent in the Senate. “Shenanigans” is both an appropriate and a so-far unalterable description. I’d like to know if you agree.