RSS Feed for this Blog

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys

I know I'm always looking for an excuse to veer off into politics. But the current stalemate in Albany is certainly not off topic for this blog, nor for any matter pending approval in the New York State Senate. And that, of course, includes the decision on the operator at the Aqueduct racino.

Senator Pedro Espada, whose elevation to the position of the temporary president of the Senate has been met with universal derision from the press of all political leanings, said after the coup on Monday that at least four or five other Democrats told him they will join the "coalition;" but I imagine that nobody is the least bit surprised that that has not come to fruition. Instead, Senator Hiram Monserrate, in the face of intense pressure (and who knows what kind of incentives), is said to be strongly considering coming back to the Democratic fold. Chief among those inducements is what is seen as the imminent replacement of Senator Malcolm Smith as the caucus leader; but a report in Newsday cites an anonymous "confidant" who says that the Senator from Queens will not return to the elected majority, claiming that "there are more things than just that."

Senator Monserrate has a fascinating rough-and tumble background as a former NYC cop who left the force on a psychological disability; and a former NYC councilman who has raised eyebrows before. And now, this guy has potentially real and quite serious legal problems stemming from the incident with his girlfriend last December. The injuries were quite severe, and prosecutors, who claim that he attacked her in a jealous rage, obviously believe that his alibi is questionable. His companion, Karla Giraldo, originally claimed that she was indeed assaulted, but later changed her story to comport with Monserrate's claim that it was an accident. However, there exists a security video of the Senator violently dragging the stricken woman down the apartment hallway after she appears to ring a neighbor's doorbell for help. A judge who viewed it said it "causes the blood to boil."

Tom Golisano, the Buffalo billionaire said to be behind the coup, denied promising to help Monserrate with his legal bills. However, this blogger put together a timeline which intimates that his switch to a prominent $750 an hour lawyer corresponds to the time during which the coup was said to be planned.

Of course, even if Monserrate does return to the Democrats (and for whatever reason), that would leave the Senate in a 31-31 deadlock (assuming, as I think we can, that Espada stays put), with no lieutenant governor to break ties. And Tom Precious, reporting in the Buffalo News, explains the potential constitutional crisis that could result. Even if the coup were to hold, the coalition would have an urgent incentive to get things done. But in the case of a tie:

Without a power sharing deal, the Senate would be out of business because neither side could get the needed 32 votes for a quorum to even hold a session—ending any talk of dealing with issues like the state’s high property taxes or an assortment of bills localities are relying on Albany to approve. [Buffalo News]
So the mantra of "be careful what you wish for" may be applicable here.

Meanwhile, the Times is now reporting that the investigations into the affairs of Senator Espada are broader than previously reported.
Law enforcement officials are reviewing records of taxpayer-financed travel, campaign records and legislative earmarks, as well as Mr. Espada’s residency, people with knowledge of the investigations said Saturday.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is said to be involved; and the Daily News notes that he could face criminal charges for failing to file campaign financial forms. And this is the guy that Senator Dean Skelos and his Republican cohorts would place a heartbeat away from the governorship in their quest to regain power in the Senate.

I think that the situation was best summed up in a superb column by the Times' Susan Dominus on Saturday. Noting the scant role that women have played in this mess (indeed, as she notes, Karla Giraldo and Ashley Dupré have been the most influential women in New York politics of late), Ms. Dominus writes:
Has anyone else noticed that this whole affair has the feel of some all-boys clubhouse where they have all gone off their meds at the same time? It’s not just the boyishness of the behavior — it’s the boyishness of the players.

Click through page after page of news of the people involved in the affair — the behind-the-scenes string-pullers, the installed puppets, the hypocritical apologists, the coy waverers, the ineffectual leaders — and you won’t come across the names of any women at all. [NY Times]
One wonders if we'd be any worse off if Rachel Alexandra was in charge.


Anonymous said...

Well considered and thorough compilation of the recent Senate circus ongoings. It surely could effect decisions like Aqueduct if it persists.

Why can't Governor Paterson just issue an Executive Order that awards the Aqueduct VLT and development deal to some qualified team with an appropriate bid, using the $1 million a day the state is losing by not having the place operational as the rationale for the order?

Getting the three men, whomever they are going to be, to even agree on the time of day may prove impossible, so why not?

Steve Zorn said...

Aside from the slot machine deal, which I no longer believe will ever happen, no matter who purports to be in charge in Albany, there's a more parochial matter still hanging fire in Albany that's affected by the Senate food fight: legislation that would allocate 1% of purses for backstretch benevolence purposes, either through NYRA or through the NY Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, is still pending. The legislation would principally benefit the Backstretch Employees Service Team (BEST), which provides free health care for track workers. For the year ending this coming September 1st, that 1% money was primarily used to purchase drug-testing equipment for the lab at Cornell; it needs to be reenacted to make the levy permanent and to direct it to BEST. Without a working Senate, among those who'll suffer are the 2,000 or so low-paid track workers.

John said...

Intriguing but the most intriguing thing is that there's a billionaire in Buffalo?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if any clues to the political maneuvering will be given by NYSRWB Chairman John Sabini at the NY Gaming Summit on June 22-23rd? Chairman Sabini is the keynote speaker at the luncheon sponsored by Aqueduct Entertainment Group, one of the bidders for the Aqueduct VLT and development project.

Sabini should be familiar with Queens and Hiram Monserrate as that used to be his Senate district. Hopefully, somebody with knowledge of the Aqueduct VLT history is there to ask the appropriate questions.

jk said...

These 2 were hard at work in luxury seats at Yankee Stadium.

They've got some nerve!

A world away from the chaos in Albany, dissident Senators Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. watched the Subway Series in a pair of plush seats at Yankee Stadium Saturday, taking a leisurely break from the state of shame they created upstate.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:05 p.m. -
The law authorizing the vlts requires an agreement between the Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader. The governor can't award the contract unilaterally.