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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Albany in August

The press corps cheered last week as state attorney general (AG) Andrew Cuomo, the son of a former governor, threatened to investigate nepotism in state government.

The case in question was the state Senate’s hiring of Pedro G. Espada, the 35-year-old son of Senate majority leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx). Before any formal proceedings were launched by the AG’s office, the younger Espada resigned from his $120,000-a-year post, less than a week after landing on the state’s payroll.

I was driving to Albany last Thursday when it became clear Senator Espada had gone too far, even with a group of Senate Democrats who had hiked state spending more than 8 percent this year while also raising a wide range of taxes and fees.

As I approached the Capital District, I tuned into Albany’s WROW-AM. The news talk station often obsesses about the latest political developments and their morning co-anchors didn’t disappoint. For almost an hour, ‘Steve & Jackie’ urged their listeners to call Senator Espada’s Albany office and apply for the soon-to-be vacated position held by his son. After all, the broadcasters noted, taxpayers were told days earlier it was essential for the state Senate to have a “deputy director of intergovernmental relations,” Pedro G. Espada’s job title, even though it was a newly-created position.

I have two other stories to pass along. When traveling to Albany on business, I often rent a car because, while the Amtrak route along the Hudson River is picturesque, I need to arrive in Albany on the same day I leave Long Island. Although I vaguely remembered that the rental car industry had gotten the short end of the stick during 2009’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bail-out debate, it all came back to me upon reading a notice at the rental counter.

The state rental car tax increased to 11 percent from 5 percent effective June 1, 2009 in the 12 counties in which the MTA operates, the flier stated. “The appropriate 11 percent rental tax will appear on your invoice in addition to the applicable state and local sales and use taxes and will be labeled sales tax,” the notice concludes.

The other anecdote has to do with the July 2009 edition of The Capitol, a free monthly. A large stack of them sat forlornly on State Street, not far from the Capitol Building. But I’m a news junkie so I grabbed a copy, even though the aforementioned Senator Espada was on the cover. To my surprise, there appeared on Page 4 a Newsday-like puff piece on county executive Tom Suozzi’s 2009 re-election campaign and his positioning for a place on the 2010 statewide ticket. My immediate reaction was that the Albany public relations firm which appears periodically on Suozzi’s campaign committee expenditure reports had earned its keep.

Yet Capitol reporter Sal Gentile’s credibility came into question in the Suozzi article’s second paragraph, when he wrote that Nassau was “one of the most conservative counties in the state.” Oh, really? The Republican presidential candidate last carried Nassau in 1988 and the Nassau GOP hasn’t won since 1997 either a county executive’s race or control of the county legislature.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: