Written by Michael A. Miller Friday, 12 March 2010 00:00
It turns out that Governor Paterson’s biggest mistake was his controversial and unprecedented appointment of a replacement Lieutenant Governor last year. If he had not appointed Richard Ravitch, then State Senator Malcolm Smith would still be next in the line of succession and there would have been no calls for resignation. Kharma.
There is a weird divergence as of the moment this is being written. It’s clear that the Albany establishment and the media are just tired of Governor Paterson and want to hit the reset button. Meanwhile, a Marist College poll taken on March 1-2 found that 61 percent of New Yorkers preferred that Paterson finish out the year and his term in office (plus or minus 2.8 points due to the margin of error). This would be the perfect setting for a recall referendum in which voters decide the Governor’s fate, up or down (the way Californians dumped Governor Grey Davis in 2003). Many states allow recall votes on local officials and state legislators, too; local mayors in New Jersey were tossed by voters in 1994 and 2006. Not in New York. This possibility is just one of the reasons leaders in both major parties and other organizations invested in the status quo have almost all opposed any new State Constitutional Convention. The next mandatory referendum on whether to hold a convention will be in 2017, but the legislature can call for an earlier vote.
If Mr. Paterson is still in office by the time you read this, his poll numbers (for those of us who rely on them to decide what to think, such as most journalists) will likely be lower because of two situations in which his mistakes seem less vague. One is the administration’s proposed list to close or significantly reduce services at 79 of the state’s 213 parks and historic sites, with another 50 potentially on the block. The other is the Yankee tickets.
The state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has already had its budget cut by 40 percent in the last two years, and the cuts represent one-twelfth of one-hundredth of the state budget. There’s a growing reaction against the Governor’s plan because some of it is bizarre. Consider Thatcher Park, one of my old Albany haunts. Turn onto New Scotland Avenue, which starts at the city’s urban midpoint, drive about ten or twelve minutes and you’re surrounded by farms and hills. The road runs through Thatcher Park, with picnic tables on either side and trails leading off the parking areas. This park is on the closure list, but the only way to “close” off its 2,155 acres would be to build some serious fencing or maybe station squads of State Troopers there. That doesn’t save money. It seems mean-spirited. Actually, I think it was just posturing, to make the point that times are tough and we have one tough governor. Well, if that’s it, it backfired.
The free Yankee tickets and the apparent subsequent attempt to cover it up with a post-dated check is just gross. Does it merit the political death penalty of resignation or removal? The hypocritical braying from some speaks louder. It was discovered in 2008 that free luxury suites and first dibs on good tickets were being reserved for city officials at the new Yankee Stadium and Citifield. The plan was supposedly scrapped, but the sentiment remained sublime. As city and state officials fell all over themselves to approve Yankee Stadium, a judge ruled that the destruction of two public parks in the Bronx to clear the way could proceed because replacement facilities, including ball fields for local youngsters, would be in place during 2009 and no later than early 2010. Well, there are no new parks. Construction hasn’t even started. Parks are gone, a billion-dollar private corporation makes a fortune. When will public officials be put in the dock for that?
Some of this seems to be classic misdirection. Attention is being diverted.
If the Daily News was really concerned about the woman who was allegedly victimized by the governor’s aide, they wouldn’t have plastered her picture and her name all over their front page. Talk about gross.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.