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Now Out of Race, Can Paterson Hold On and Govern?


At first it sounded like a stump speech. Gov. David Paterson, with his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson by his side, stood before the press gathered at his Manhattan office on Friday afternoon. Paterson listed his accomplishments in public office, saying he "improved the quality of life of all New Yorkers."

But very quickly his tone changed. There was a hint of finality, everything said in the past tense. "This is his 'You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore' moment," said one press observer.

Aides had told the press Paterson was going to announce the end of his campaign, but his words also rang for the moment as a final farewell.

"There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service but to step back. And that moment has come for me," he said.

Paterson, though, did not resign Instead he vowed to remain in office for 308 days until his term expires and said he would spend the time fighting for the people of New York.

The governor's statement on Friday, therefore, left New York in a state of limbo as high-stakes budget negotiations begin.

While some Democrats were glad to see Paterson bow out, a great many express concern that, at such a critical time, New York has a governor who is under investigation and completely without political capitol. They believe that, as the lamest of lame ducks, Paterson will not be able to corral legislators into tough but needed budget cuts. The state is facing an $8.2 billion deficit by spring of next year, according to the state budget office.

Some legislators and officials have called on Paterson to resign and hand over the reins to Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. The lieutenant governor, based on his past performances, is seen as a financial wiz and a crack negotiator. Others have come to Paterson's defense. They say the state does not need yet another governor to resign, especially during critical budget negotiations. And some legislators have simply called on Paterson to let Ravitch head negotiations, while Paterson remains in office.

Off With His Head

Despite what Paterson said on Friday, some believe the governor is simply delaying the inevitable.

For weeks, rumors about the contents of a New York Times investigation had floated around the capital. The Times eventually ran three articles about Paterson and his aide David Johnson, the last of which detailed how state troopers pressured a woman who had allegedly been assaulted by Johnson not to seek an order of protection against him. The day before her scheduled court appearance, Paterson allegedly phoned the woman. The woman failed to show up for the hearing and her case was dismissed.

As the final Times story broke, Paterson called for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate his, his aides' and the state troopers’ involvement in the case. Cuomo, Paterson's chief political rival, agreed. Quickly pressure mounted on Paterson to exit the race, even to resign. For months, Paterson had been facing pressure to exit the race from Democrats who wanted to see Cuomo as the Democratic nominee for governor. On Friday, they got at least half of what they wanted as Paterson halted his campaign.

For some, though, that was not enough.

Perhaps the most striking call for Paterson's resignation came from the man who holds Paterson's former Senate seat, Bill Perkins. "He knows what he did, who he talked to," Perkins told WNYC. "He knows under whose order the state troopers contacted this woman. If the investigation turns out the way many suspect, his resignation is almost inevitable. If that is the case then it is in the best interests of the people of New York for him to cut bait now."

Having Paterson remain in office will only make it harder to move forward, U.S. Rep Michael McMahon said Friday. His "staying in office as a lame duck is a distraction," McMahon said to the Staten Island Advance. "There could be impeachment proceedings."

City Comptroller John Liu also called for Paterson's resignation Friday, citing the best interests of the city. "We have a $4.1 billion budget deficit to grapple with in New York City and cannot make real progress until the state budget is resolved on time one month from now," said Liu. "In order for this to happen, we need Gov. Paterson to step down now. Richard Ravitch has an abundance of integrity, experience and creativity. As governor, Richard Ravitch would be the person most able to steer clear of politics, bring people together, and bring about a balanced, on-time state budget.

A Pass to Ravitch?

While stopping short of calling for Paterson to resign, Liu's state counterpart, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli agreed about the handling of budget talks. "The governor has made a wise choice to end his election campaign," DiNapoli said, according to the Village Voice. "Now he needs to make another wise choice and designate Lt. Gov. Ravitch to negotiate the budget with the legislature."

Even before the final Times story damned Paterson's campaign, Albany Sen. Neil Breslin was calling on Paterson to allow Ravitch to take the reins in budget negotiations.

"If the governor let the lieutenant governor negotiate on his behalf, he would be very well served," Breslin told Gotham Gazette last Tuesday. After the scandal broke, Breslin was more frank. "I think of this as the straw that broke the camel's back," said Breslin. "If the story proves to be true this will be the last in a lot of missteps for the governor. It is just too much, and a resignation should follow."

Sen. Liz Krueger also supports having Paterson put Ravitch in control of budget negotiations. "Somebody’s got to get this budget negotiated," Krueger told Business Week, saying that Ravitch, "has an experience in government budgeting and negotiating under complex circumstances. He is a very skilled public finance person."

Even without the scandal, some legislators had worried Paterson was too politically weak to negotiate the budget. The latest revelation only reinforced that. " "I don't know if he can find a way to walk himself back into the room and be part of the process," State Sen. Diane Savino told the Advance. "I don't know if he can find a way to walk himself back into the room and be part of the process."

Many legislators had hoped Paterson would draw on Ravitch's expertise during deficit reduction negotiations late last year; nevertheless Ravitch was isolated. It has been reported that Ravitch and Paterson haven't spoken in months.

Ravitch is working on a long-term plan for the state's finances. He wasn't willing to share much about the plan during a recent interview with Gotham Gazette and said he was unsure how it would be received by the legislature. "There are several possibilities," said Ravitch, "One is there will be a lot of screaming, yelling and people saying it's the dumbest idea they have ever heard. My guess is some people will be polite, and I think some people will think the ideas are good, but I really don't want to talk about it yet."

Ravitch indicated that he would be willing to take the lead on budget negotiations if he was asked to. "I'm fully prepared if it's useful to do that. I don't think that David Paterson has a problem communicating I think the problem is, as I suggested, is it's very, very difficult [to cut the budget].

Hold Your Horses

Others argue that Paterson may now be in a better position to negotiate the budget than he was, say, a month ago. He, like Ravitch, who has said he has no plan to run for office in November, does not have to worry about poll numbers and can propose and push for unpopular cuts.

Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie supports this idea. "I join many of my colleagues in government asking that others refrain from calling for Gov. Paterson's resignation," said Heastie in a statement. "We are on a definitive clock with the state's budget, and I believe that having another transition at this time would put our state government in greater jeopardy of not meeting its obligations to the people of New York [i.e., with an on-time budget]."

Heastie said he respects Ravitch, "who is a man of great intellect and integrity. However, the people of the state of New York would be better served by a higher level of stability at this time. We accomplish that by having Gov. David Paterson lead us through this year's budget process."

"Great crises also sometimes bring about great opportunities," Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat told the New Times. He said that, without the distractions of running for office, Paterson would have more time to devote to crucial legislative business."

Critics of this idea say that Paterson is so politically damaged by scandal that legislators have no reason to listen to him. Nevertheless, some say Paterson should be left alone until Cuomo concludes his investigation.

"The calls for his resignation at this point are premature and I would urge everyone to cease and desist," said Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries in a statement. "The governor, like every other individual, is entitled to a presumption of innocence and should not be hounded out of office unless a comprehensive investigation establishes clear evidence of wrongdoing."

If nothing else, some say, the calls for resignation represent another distraction from the real issues facing the state. "It makes it worse for all of us in terms of trying to put our agenda forward," said Assemblymember Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic chairman and one of Paterson's staunchest allies, said. "It weakens the agenda."

Of course, the governor's future hinges to some extent on the finding of Cuomo's investigation. The more damaging information that comes out, the more difficult it will be for him to hold on to his office until January.

Remember When

Ironically, when Paterson became governor in 2008 following the scandal that sent Spitzer running from office, many legislators saw Paterson as a breath of fresh air. Spitzer had been cantankerous and unwilling to conform to Albany's backroom style. Paterson, as the Senate Minority leader, knew how to play the game. He had a great relationship with then Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, where Spitzer’s relationship with Bruno was venomous. Observers saw Paterson as a cordial negotiator.

"David will sit down with Sen. Bruno and Speaker Silver, and he will be able to be, in part, a facilitator, and he will not be a lightning rod," said Breslin during a 2008 interview immediately following Spitzer's resignation. "It will be much easier for the three of them to agree on basic principles of a good, on-time budget." Assemblyman Ron Canestrari was a bit more guarded about Paterson's prospects at the time, but optimistic nonetheless. "Paterson has a reservoir of good will on both sides of the aisle,” said Canestrari. “He worked as a member of the Senate with Sen. Bruno and this could only help getting his agenda enacted into law. But we have to be realistic. The year of good feelings only goes so far, and strong philosophical differences with the Senate cannot be overcome with a smile and a wink. Our expectations, unlike when Spitzer was elected, should be more realistic this time around."

After Heated Closed-Door Debate, Senate Expels Monserrate


hiram monserrate
commons.wikimedia
Hiram Monserrate and State Senate President Pro Tem Malcolm Smith

On Tuesday night around 9:30 p.m. Sen. Hiram Monserrate was expelled from the New York State Senate. All it took was a show of hands.

It came down to a vote of 53 to 8. The nay votes all came from Democrats: Monserrate himself, Conference Leader John Sampson, Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., Ruben Diaz, Carl Kruger, Kevin Parker, Eric Adams and Martin Malave Dilan all voted against expelling Monserrate. An alternative measure would have delayed Monserrate's expulsion until June, giving him time to appeal his misdemeanor conviction for dragging his girlfriend down a hallway after she suffered severe cuts on her face. That measure did not come to a vote.

Monserrate plans an immediate legal challenge with the help of civil rights attorney Norman Siegel. Legislators haven't expelled one of their own for decades.

The show of hands was simple, but the debate beforehand and the results of Monserrate's expulsion are anything but.

Voicing Differences

Overflow crowds flocked to the viewing galleries at noon as the session began. Some of the onlookers joked it was like attending a public execution. But they were in for a long wait, as the Senate considered a number of bills on other matters and then recessed to conference on what to do about Monserrate. The crowds slowly dissipated as it became clear that consensus would not be reached quickly.

Democrats holed up for hours behind closed doors and held what Sen. Neil Breslin described as an "animated" debate. Reporters who waited outside the chamber could hear shouting before the outer doors were finally shut and locked.

At one point Monserrate left the conference, saying he had been excluded. Asked if he could have stayed to simply sit and listen, Monserrate responded, "I don't think that was an option." Later Sen. Ruben Diaz, a close ally of Monserrate's, exited the conference with his hands in the air, waving off questions from reporters. Asked if Monserrate had been excluded from the debate, Diaz, still waving his hands, responded, "He was not excluded."

Hours later Diaz led Monserrate back into the meeting. Shortly thereafter Diaz exited screaming, "John Sampson doesn't have the leadership. John Sampson got defeated. He cannot produce. We don't have a leader. We don't have a leader. We don't have a leader. I don't know what's going to happen!" Diaz then told reporters that he wasn't sure whether he would switch parties, or perhaps just vote on his own.

A number of senators reported that the Democratic conference was evenly split (16-16) about whether to expel Monserrate immediately or to give him until June. Leaving Monserrate in place until June would made sure that Sampson would have the 32 votes he needs to pass anything for the rest of session. Sampson offered the measure that would have let Monserrate remain until then.

Gov. David Paterson announced after the vote that he will call for a special election on March 16 to fill Monserrate's seat. Monserrate has promised to run to get his seat back. If he does, he will probably face Assemblyman Jose Peralta, who enjoys the support of the Queens Democratic establishment.

Monserrate and his allies have attacked the way the Senate, which named a special committee to consider Monserrate's situation following his conviction, carried out its inquiry. They say it was all part of a political agenda, spurred partly by Monserrate's defection from the Democrats during last year's Senate coup.

Monserrate pledged to contest the legality of the expulsion.

Sen. Eric Schneiderman, who chaired the select committee that recommended Monserrate's expulsion, said that the Senate has every right to expel a member. He cited Legislative Law section 3, which states, "Each house has the power to expel any of its members, after the report of a committee to inquire into the charges against him shall have been made."

"Due process was followed, justice was served," said Schneiderman. He issued a statement following the vote to defend his committee and Monserrate's expulsion. "Make no mistake about it, this is a sad day for the Senate," read the statement. "The expulsion of a senator is a rare action that ought to be considered only in the most egregious of circumstances, but I believe the conduct of Sen. Monserrate -- his disregard for the law and for the safety of others -- meets that standard. Sen. Monserrate has not been honest about the events that led to his arrest and conviction, and, to this day, refuses to accept responsibility for his criminal conduct."

A Majority of One

While there is concern among some legislators about what the temporary absence of one Democratic vote -- and the lack of the required 32 vote majority -- might mean to the body, a number of observers are not terribly concerned. Lobbyists and good government advocates point out that the Democratic majority hasn't exactly been steam rolling out bills, and things in the legislature won't really heat up legislatively until late March, when the budget deadline draws closer.

However, some still express concern that no matter how quickly Monserrate is replaced, his allies - -Diaz, Espada, and Carl Kruger -- could make it almost impossible for the Democrats and the Senate as a whole to accomplish anything, if the three decide to retaliate for Monserrate's expulsion.

Breslin and State Sen. Liz Krueger disputed Diaz's accusations about Sampson's leadership. "John Sampson solidified his leadership tonight," Breslin said.

The Nay Votes

Only three members chose to explain their votes on the floor. Diaz raged against what he saw as the hypocrisy of expelling Monserrate. He said that any number of legislators have been found guilty of corruption and misdemeanors but were not expelled. He said the Democrats had begged Monserrate to return during the coup, "Just to make a fool of him and put him to shame."

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, who was presiding over the session, interrupted Diaz, who had exceeded the time limit, asking him, "How do you vote?" Diaz responded, "You ask me how I vote? I vote against all these people!"

Espada began by saying he wanted to "voice support for our fair and just leader John Sampson." Then Espada referred to a vote earlier in the day on a resolution to demand that terror trials not be held in Manhattan. Several senators, including Liz Krueger, stood to argue that combatants should be granted the rights of the American civil legal system. Espada said that those members could find it in themselves to afford terrorists due process but refuse to give Monserrate "due process rights."

Finally, Monserrate stood to defend himself. He told the chamber the Senate had not afforded him due process, and insisted, "We don't have the power to expel a member.” He also warned that any other senator could be next: "I will be voting no on this resolution. I will encourage every member of this chamber who believes in fundamental fairness and can put to the side the politics and the heated discussion of the issue and say, 'it's Hiram Monserrate today, it can definitely be me tomorrow.'" He said the vote to expel him was effectively "disenfranchising the voters of my majority minority district."

"I think it’s the height of arrogance for someone who has never pulled a lever in my community -- never saw the narcotics sales on Roosevelt Avenue, never saw the lack of services that my community receives -- to think that today they have more power than the constituent voters that sent me here to represent them," Monserrate said before asking for his colleagues to, "Let the people come this fall. Let them be the final word on the matter of Hiram Monserrate."

No one interrupted Monserrate's, 16-minute speech, and when he finished, the vote tally was read. Monserrate had been expelled. Senators quietly moved toward the exits. Monserrate stood near his, getting hugs from some colleagues, receiving conciliatory pats on the back from others.

Liz Krueger, the first Senator to openly call for Monserrate's ouster, made her way out the door away from where Monserrate was standing. "It was a long process, but you got the result you wanted. Are you satisfied?" she was asked. She paused briefly and replied, "We did what we needed to do."

Marcia Pappas of the National Organization for Women-New York State hailed the vote. "For over a year The National Organization for Women-New York State has repeatedly sent the message that anything less than expulsion was not acceptable. Any form of violence against women is not acceptable. We hope that this serves as a wake-up call to all lawmakers. Whether you are a candidate or a sitting elected official, if you are violent toward another person, you are not fit to hold office."

Three of the four leaders of the legislature and the hea


Councilmembers were asked by Gotham Gazette whether they would support (Intro 1105) legislation set to be re-introduced at the City Council, which would require certain recipients of city aid to pay a living wage.

Their responses are below.

Councilmember Living Wage Position
Margaret Chin Supports
Rosie Mendez Out of town
Christine C. Quinn Undecided
Daniel R. Garodnick Undecided
Jessica S. Lappin Undecided
Gale A. Brewer Supports
Robert Jackson Supports
Melissa Mark-Viverito Supports
Inez E. Dickens Undecided
Ydanis Rodriguez Supports
G. Oliver Koppell Supports
Larry B. Seabrook Did not return phone calls
James Vacca Undecided
Fernando Cabrera Supports
Joel Rivera Supports
Helen D. Foster Supports
Maria del Carmen Arroyo Supports
Annabel Palma Supports
Daniel J. Halloran Against
Peter Koo Did not return phone calls
Julissa Ferreras Supports
Peter F. Vallone, Jr. Against
Mark Weprin Undecided
James F. Gennaro Undecided
Daniel Dromm Supports
James Van Bramer Supports
Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. Undecided
Thomas White, Jr. Undecided
Karen Koslowitz Undecided
Elizabeth Crowley Supports
James Sanders, Jr. Undecided
Eric Ulrich Against
Stephen Levin Undecided
Diana Reyna Undecided
Letitia James Supports
Albert Vann Undecided
Erik Martin Dilan Undecided
Sara M. Gonzalez Supports
Bradford Lander Undecided
Mathieu Eugene Supports
Darlene Mealy Supports
Charles Barron Supports
Vincent J. Gentile Undecided
Jumaane Williams Supports
Lewis A. Fidler Undecided
Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. Undecided
Michael C. Nelson Against
Deborah Rose Did not return phone calls
James S. Oddo Against
Vincent Ignizio Against

Amid Fireworks, the Senate Stalemate Continues


For updates on the impasse in Albany and its effect on New York City, stay tuned to The Wonkster.

As the state enters week four of the Albany impasse, New York City is out about $6 million -- which the city projects will grow to $60 million -- and has a new governing body of sorts for its public school system.

The State Senate spent the holiday weekend trapped in the capital. No fireworks allowed.

And leaders on both the Republican and Democratic sides in Albany still have not come to an agreement over who controls the State Senate. Democrats have moved on a number of bills affecting local government across the state, including voting down the city's sales tax increase, but everyone else in Albany argues the votes don't count. Republicans have urged Democrats to meet in public, but Democrats have continually failed to appear.

All this in less than a month, and some fear we could have a whole summer full of Senate squabbling.

It has been an embarrassment to the state. But for the city and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's agenda, there are much larger consequences.

Losing Revenue

In failing to pass legislation, the Senate added a new item to its ever-growing list of casualties: the city's budget. In order to close a gaping budget hole, the City Council and the Bloomberg administration agreed to increase the city's sales tax by 0.5 percent, bringing it up to a total of 8.875 percent. The hike was expected to increase city revenues by $518 million, and was supposed to go into effect on July 1 -- the first day of the city's fiscal year 2010.

Now the measure is floundering in Albany's dysfunction, and its support in the State Senate is now questionable.

Of all the bills the Senate Democrats took up in what most consider an invalid vote Tuesday, the sales tax was the only measure that was defeated, going down 19 to 13. The opposition was led by Bronx Sen. Bronx Ruben Diaz Sr. who said by raising the sales tax the city was balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg said he was as "surprised as anybody" that the measure did not receive support in the Senate. Any more cuts, which the city may have to make now that its will not get the expected sales tax revenues, will be "very painful," the mayor added.

"We have a hole of at least $60 million created yesterday," the mayor said.

According to administration officials, the city will lose $2 million in revenue every day it must go without the tax increase. Because the legislation is written to take effect on the first day of the following month, the city already will lose out on revenue for all of July -- costing a total of $60 million, officials said.

That sum, according to the administration, could support 600 police officers or the Fire Department's 198 engine companies and 143 ladder companies.

The Assembly has already approved the tax measure.

Into the Sunset

The effect of the inaction on school governance is harder to predict. For the past few months, Bloomberg has sought to portray the expiration of mayoral control of the school system in its most apocalyptic terms: riots in the streets, a return to the Soviet Union and so on.

But on Thursday afternoon, seven members of the newly resurrected Board of Education, which includes three deputy mayors, met at the Tweed Courthouse to calmly approve the designation of Joel Klein as schools chancellor, giving him the same responsibilities he had a day before under mayoral control. They also passed a resolution urging the State Senate to speedily approve the extension of mayoral control. They then decided not to meet again until September 10 -- the day after school starts.

It appeared that little had changed in the city's school system.

In a press briefing yesterday, Bloomberg said: “What we’re trying to do here is to continue on as though mayoral control was approved, and it’s our assumption that it will be sometime in the very near future. If in the fall we find out that it wasn’t, we have a different set of issues." Until that happens, Bloomberg said, it will be business as usual inside city schools.

The mayor kept control over the school system because the majority of the borough presidents, who appoint five out of the seven members of the Board of Education, named mayoral allies who largely support his running of the school system.

Only Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. selected an appointee, Dolores M. Fernández, who has questioned the mayoral control policy. But even she approved the re-appointment of Klein.

On Wednesday, Diaz said he “never had a problem telling the chancellor what’s on my mind... I am not here to rubber stamp anyone.”

The other borough presidents said they too would speak out if the chancellor adopted a policy they disagreed with. But, considering the Board of Education will not meet until September -- if it meets at all -- it is unlikely the borough president's appointees will have any influence over city schools.

“We think this is a total sham,” said Jane Hirschmann, of Time Out From Testing, who was kicked out of Wednesday's press conference for not having media credentials. “This is still the mayor."

The Senate Bills

If and when the Senate returns to business, what will happen to mayoral control? The Assembly has already passed a bill -- proposed by Speaker Sheldon Silver -- that essentially retains the current system. The mayor supports that legislation.

Sen. Frank Padavan has sponsored that bill in the Senate and has said he thinks at least 40 senators would vote for it if it came to the floor.

It does not, though, have the backing of new Democratic leader Sen. John Sampson. He has offered his own mayoral control bill, which would continue to let the mayor name most members of the Panel for Educational Policy -- the largely toothless body that replaced the board -- but would require those members have set two-year terms. They currently serve at the pleasure of the official who appoints them.

While the change might seem arcane, set terms have emerged as a kind of litmus test issue in the fight over mayoral control.

"This bill is a poison pill," a Bloomberg aide told the Daily News. "Voting yes on this bill is the same as voting yes on the expiration of the mayoral control law."

Further complicating the picture is the fact that the Assembly is no longer in session. Under normal circumstances, if the Assembly and Senate pass different bills on the same issue, the two sides hold a conference to come up with a compromise measure. But that cannot happen if the Assembly has gone home for the summer.

"If the Assembly is in town and in session we can have negotiations," Sen. Liz Krueger said last week. 'Without the Assembly in town we are obviously in a situation where if we didn't pass the one law, it sunsets. If we wanted to pass something, we only had the one bill option."

Sampson and his allies, though, have said repeatedly that the mayor cannot browbeat them into passing his version of mayoral control. Among themselves, Sampson said in a written statement, Democrats "may have different opinions on school governance, but we are firmly opposed to mayoral control of the Senate."

A number of senators may welcome the chance to discus school governance further. "You know I have relative comfort with the bill that passed the Assembly but know we could have done better," said Krueger. "I wanted to see stronger language for the role of [community] superintendents and their authority."

Some critics of the current system go further, expressing relief that the chaos could derail passage of the Silver proposal.

As mayoral control sunset, the Parents Commission on School Governance, which seeks a greater role for parents in the running of the schools, released s statement saying, "Many parents will celebrate the removal of an oppressive dictatorial system that has not served their children well. We look forward to working in the future with the Senate, the Assembly and the governor to install a new governance system, with adequate checks and balances and a real voice for parents, in which no one, no matter how wealthy and powerful, can make all the decisions when it comes to our children."

Breaking the Logjam

We know state senators like their weekends. Being a patriotic lot, they probably adore the time they have to barbecue with family, attend parades and do the whole bit on the Fourth of July.

Last week Gov. David Paterson called them into special session, senators put on their happy faces and told reporters a deal was at hand and asked Paterson to send them home to cool off. No such deal came together.

On Wednesday, Paterson issued proclamations for special sessions through July 6. You would think both sides would be in a hurry to get a deal done, pass important legislation and then get out of Albany. But at this point the prospects of a deal seem fairly slim. Although there is still a glimmer of hope.

Democrats don’t appear in a hurry to jump-start negotiations. Last week Democrats said they would not negotiate with Republicans unless negotiations occurred in public -- apparently in a bid to embarrass their opponents. But Republicans twice last week took up the offer, only to have the Democrats turn them down. Democrats said they would be willing to negotiate in public on Thursday, but again they were no-shows.

Meanwhile, Sampson said on Wednesday that the Senate is in “summer recess at this point in time.”

Last week Democrats were calling on Republicans to stop focusing on long-term leadership issues and instead come to an agreement on a short-term plan that would allow both sides to vote on time sensitive legislation. But now Democrats claim they have already addressed most of the non-controversial legislation during Tuesday's session, which was spurred by Sen. Frank Padavan’s jaunt through the Senate chamber on his way to get a V8.

Now the governor, the Assembly and Senate Republicans wonder whether the Democrats' action was legitimate. Paterson has refused to sign the bills supposedly approved by the Senate, and the Assembly has declined to send the bills to the governor -- a normal pro forma legislative action. If the bills do become law, Republicans are likely to go to court to try to stop them.

Republicans are already quite busy with legal cases. They have a case pending against Angelo Aponte, secretary of the Senate. The charge he prevented them from submitting new legislation or printing bill jackets, blocking them from the Senate rostrum and generally making it hard for them to function as part of the Senate. Republicans want to block Aponte from performing his duties. If they win that case, it will go a long way toward legitimizing the June 8 vote that Republicans claim made Sen. Pedro Espada president of the Senate and Sen. Dean Skelos majority leader.

Republicans are also appealing a decision by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi that requires Republicans and Democrats to show up in the Senate chamber at the same time during extraordinary sessions. Republicans claim other branches of government should not meddle in legislative business. But late Wednesday Espada and Skelos asked Paterson to help broker negotiations in his office.

Most of the Democrats didn't seem to be in any hurry to join in. They still feel securely in control of the Senate majority offices, along with the payroll and the staff that makes the legislative process work. But late Thursday leaders from both sides met in Paterson's office. They presented the governor with the proposals that have yet to yield an agreement. "Both Senator Espada and our conference, we have a short-term and long-term agreement," Malcolm Smith told reporters."We are trying to get the two of them together, so we can determine how to move forward. The governor has agreed to look at both agreements and we'll try to come back tomorrow."

After the Deadline...


For updates on the impasse in Albany and its effect on New York City, stay tuned to The Wonkster.

On Tuesday, it became painfully clear that the chaos in the Senate had doomed any hopes that the legislature could perform its most basic duties. As New York City waited to see if the Senate would reauthorize mayoral control of schools and approve a measure that would help the city balance its budget, senators thrashed about in a nasty power struggle that left interested parties stunned, disgusted and angry.

At noon, Democrats said they had a quorum because Republican Sen. Frank Padavan had walked across the chamber while their session started. The Democrats began to read bills on the non-controversial calendar -- bills that pass unless someone raises an objection. There were no objections until the bill that would raise the city’s sales tax came up. Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. animatedly asked that the bill be put aside. Instead, it came to a vote and was defeated 19 to 13.

Sens. Diaz and Hiram Monserrate said that they did not want the low-income residents of their districts to carry the burden of balancing the city budget. Diaz suggested Mayor Michael Bloomberg use his own wealth for that purpose. Some Senators said the bill was killed to use as leverage in coming negotiations with Bloomberg over mayoral control.

In the end, it turned out the vote did not really matter. Padavan said he had entered the chamber inadvertently, meaning the Senate did not have a quorum after all. Gov. David Paterson said he would not sign any of the bills passed during the so-called session.

The defeat of the revenue bill and the Senate's failure to vote on mayoral control indicates that, as long as the chaos persists in Albany, the Bloomberg administration may find things tougher than ever in the capital. Former Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Malcolm Smith had made it clear he would work with Republicans on passing a school governance bill the mayor could accept. Both mayoral control and the city sales tax increase would likely pass the Senate by a lopsided count if Republicans ran things.

Under the tenuous leadership of Sen. John Sampson, who has been described as "anti-mayor," Democrats repeatedly rejected appeals from Bloomberg to act on legislation affecting the city, telling him to pressure the Republican caucus to reach a power sharing agreement.

Losing Revenue

In failing to pass legislation yesterday, the Senate added a new item to the ever-growing list of casualties: the city's budget. In order to close a gaping budget hole, the City Council and the Bloomberg administration agreed to increase the city's sales tax by 0.5 percent, bringing it up to a total of 8.875 percent. The hike was expected to increase city revenues by $518 million, and was supposed to go into effect on July 1 -- the first day of the city's fiscal year 2010.

Now the measure is floundering in Albany's dysfunction.

Before what turned out to be an invalid vote yesterday, the administration appeared confident that the increase would pass. On Monday night, Bloomberg's press secretary Stu Loeser issued a statement arguing the measure should be brought to the floor because there was support for it.

"Sen. John Sampson stated today that passing taxes necessary to preserve essential city services and avoid layoffs and a bill that would prevent New York City schools from returning to chaos were controversial," said Loeser in an e-mailed statement. "They are not, and both enjoy the support of a bipartisan majority of state senators. Both pieces of legislation -- which already have the votes for passage -- deserve to be brought to the floor for a vote. That's democracy, and if the city's budget and public schools continue to be held hostage to the Senate's gridlock, it will cause real harm to New York families and the health of our city."

According to administration officials, the city will lose $2 million in revenue every day without the tax increase. Because the legislation is written to take effect on the first day of the following month, the city already will lose out on revenue for all of July -- costing a total of $60 million, officials said.

That sum, according to the administration, could support 600 police officers or the Fire Department's 198 engine companies and 143 ladder companies.

The Assembly has already approved the measure.

Into the Sunset

The effect of the inaction on school governance is harder to predict. For the past few months, Bloomberg has sought to portray the expiration of mayoral control of the school system in its most apocalyptic terms: riots in the streets, a return to the Soviet Union and so on. But in a press briefing yesterday, Bloomberg said his administration "will work hard to shield New York's children and their parents from the chaos." Schools, he said, "will not be padlocked" and summer school will open as scheduled today.

Instead of invoking images of angry mobs on the Grand Concourse, Bloomberg said the confusion over how to run the system would bring in lawyers -- and litigation. "Every decision -- from personnel decisions to policy decisions -- will be subject to litigation and uncertainty," Bloomberg continued.

That confusion arises partly because, as Philissa Cramer observed in Gotham Schools, the school governance law passed in 2002 calls for the law to sunset after seven years but "doesn’t include instructions for reconstituting the old school board or dismantling the current system."

The mayor foresees "a nightmare flashback to the days when politics ruled the schools." But some experts believe he may be overstating the effects of the current law's expiration. While the city would have to reconstitute a Board of Education, they say, that board could decide to continue most school policies and practices while waiting for the legislature to pass a school governance bill.

"If the mayor acts... at least changing the structure on top, then I think it's wrong to foresee any potential litigation," Udi Ofer, the policy director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, has said.

David Bloomfield, an expert on education law who teaches at Brooklyn College, has said the state education law provides for clear lines of authority. Bloomfield sees only two credible circumstances that could lead to litigation: The mayor could file suit against a Board of Education or suits could be filed against the administration if he decides to ignore the resurrected board.

Reconstituting the Board

When mayoral control replaced the old Board of Education, borough presidents lost one of their few legally defined responsibilities. Each borough president appointed one member of the board; the mayor named two. The current turmoil -- and possible return of the board -- has focused some attention on the presidents.

Earlier this month, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer proposed a plan for preserving stability if mayoral control runs out. Among other things, he called for the mayor and borough presidents to appoint a board on July 1 and have it meet immediately. The board, he said, should then vote to retain Joel Klein as schools chancellor -- under the old system, the board, not the mayor, named the chancellor -- and "form a committee to study how the board can ensure that accountability and the current successes of the system can be maintained."

So far, though, Bloomberg has given no indication he would call such a meeting. While Online Education in American reported that administration officials were conferring with the borough presidents, they say "it's not yet clear that Mayor Bloomberg will cooperate with plans to reconvene a Board of Education tomorrow." In fact, the blog indicates Bloomberg could call in lawyers -- and seek an injunction to prevent the schools from going back to the old system and to block the creation of a new Board of Education.

Yesterday, as it seemed increasingly likely that the State Senate would not vote on mayoral control, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. moved to name his appointee to the not-yet- resurrected Board of Education, choosing Dolores Fernandez, a former president of Hostos Community College and a professor of urban education at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

"Though I am a supporter of some form of mayoral control, and I am disappointed that the current law was allowed to expire, the business of our children is too important to wait for Albany to act," Diaz said in a prepared statement.

Three other presidents -- Stringer, Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn and Helen Marshall of Queens -- said they have selected their board appointees but will not announce names until the clock runs out on mayoral control. (The fifth president, James Molinaro of Staten Island is on vacation, according to his office.)

Echoing some of Stringer's recommendations, Markowitz issued a statement saying he "would advise that a reconstituted board meet tomorrow (Wednesday) morning and take immediate action to preserve continuity of all processes and make this transition as smooth as possible for the families of New York City -- as we collectively move to resolve the matter in Albany."

As to whether the board would then vote to keep Klein, it seems likely. Four of the borough presidents have said they would keep the chancellor at least for the time being. The one exception -- Diaz -- has indicated he has "mixed opinions" on Klein.

The Senate Bills

If and when the Senate returns to business, what will happen to mayoral control? The Assembly has already passed a bill -- proposed by Speaker Sheldon Silver -- that essentially retains the current system. The mayor supports that legislation.

Padavan has sponsored that bill in the Senate and has said he thinks at least 40 senators would vote for it if it came to the floor.

It does not, though, have the backing of new Democratic leader Sampson. He has offered his own mayoral control bill, which would continue to let the mayor name most members of the Panel on Educational Policy -- the largely toothless body that replaced the board -- but would require those members have set two-year terms. They currently serve at the pleasure of the official who appoints them.

While the change might seem arcane, set terms have emerged as a kind of litmus test issue in the fight over mayoral control.

"This bill is a poison pill," a Bloomberg aide told the Daily News. "Voting yes on this bill is the same as voting yes on the expiration of the mayoral control law."

Further complicating the picture is the fact that the Assembly is no longer in session. Under normal circumstances, if the Assembly and Senate pass different bills on the same issue, the two sides hold a conference to come up with a compromise measure. But that cannot happen if the Assembly has gone home for the summer.

"If the Assembly is in town and in session we can have negotiations," Sen. Liz Krueger said last week. 'Without the Assembly in town we are obviously in a situation where if we didn't pass the one law, it sunsets. If we wanted to pass something, we only had the one bill option."

Sampson and his allies, though, have said repeatedly that the mayor cannot browbeat them into passing his version of mayoral control. Among themselves, Sampson said in a written statement, Democrats "may have different opinions on school governance, but we are firmly opposed to mayoral control of the Senate."

A number of senators may welcome the chance to discus school governance further. "You know I have relative comfort with the bill that passed the Assembly but know we could have done better," said Krueger. "I wanted to see stronger language for the role of [community] superintendents and their authority."

Some critics of the current system go further, expressing relief that the chaos could derail passage of the Silver proposal.

"Mayoral control will sunset tonight at midnight," the Parents Commission on School Governance, which seeks a greater role for parents in the running of the schools, said in a statement released last night. "We predict that there will be no rioting in the streets, no chaos or confusion. Instead, many parents will celebrate the removal of an oppressive dictatorial system that has not served their children well. We look forward to working in the future with the Senate, the Assembly and the governor, to install a new governance system, with adequate checks and balances and a real voice for parents, in which no one, no matter how wealthy and powerful, can make all the decisions when it comes to our children."

Breaking the Logjam

No school bill or city revenue package, though, seems likely to pass until there is a power-sharing agreement between the two parties, and the prospects of that look bleaker by the minute.

Tuesday was supposed to be the deadline for a deal -- the line senators would not cross. Instead it now testifies to the difficulty of reaching any agreement. On Monday, many senators must have sensed the failure ahead as they desperately tried to place blame for the impending collapse. Senators saw the train coming and they pushed each other in front of it.

Republicans blamed Democrats for a breakdown in talks, saying that the fractured Democrats have disrupted negotiations by switching representatives at the negotiating table in midstream. For their part, Democrats faulted the Republicans, saying they would only look at long-term solutions and so were unwilling to hold a session with neutral leadership to vote on non-controversial bills.

Tuesday opened with both sides of the conflict in the chamber at 10 a.m. -- but only thanks to a judge's order. In the brief moments they were there, Sen. Dean Skelos offered to negotiate in public later in the day. Smith responded by saying Democrats would hold a "regular session" at noon. Session was then adjourned. "Bullshit!" said Monserrate. He excused himself, but he was not the only senator to utter the phrase.

As senators from both sides exited the chambers, Republican Sen. Tom Libous went to the doorway of the Democratic chamber and asked to speak to Sampson. A Senate staffer waived Sampson over, and the two men entered the Democrats' lounge, talking. Maybe the senators had realized the urgency of getting back to work after all.

About 20 minutes later, chatter was heard in the Senate hallway. Staffers instructed the sergeant at arms that something would take place at noon. A table and four chairs were arranged in the center of the hall on the dividing line between the Republic and Democratic sides of the chamber. A lighting rig was set up, along with a Senate television camera and velvet ropes. It looked as though something important was about to happen.

But it didn't. A Democratic staffer called off whatever it had been. It wasn't clear who had actually called the event, and staffers from both sides disavowed any knowledge of who might have arranged it. It seemed a fitting end to a day already colored by dysfunction and posturing -- but it was only the beginning.

As press shuffled away from the conference, Democratic staff began herding their senators into the Senate chamber, telling them, "We have a quorum!" Padavan had walked through the chamber to avoid the crowd in the hall, and Democrats decided to take his presence as a sign that he was present to begin voting on legislation. With that, Democrats began steamrolling through bills. They took sworn affidavits from those who witnessed Padavan’s stroll through the chamber as Padavan countered with his own, saying he had not intended to give Democrats a quorum.

This is the absurdity that has enveloped the state capital for the last three weeks. There will certainly be more legal action, more cases and appeals filed -- and probably more farcical moments. But for New York City and municipalities across the state, the Senate’s inaction has real consequences.

In the Senate chamber on Tuesday, staff that had yet to come to terms with the likelihood that the Senate debacle might drag on over the summer contemplated the mess. Asked what he might do on the Fourth of July, one staff member said, "I was going to be cooking and eating burgers with the wife and kids." He then asked, "Are they really going to be back here?" Paterson has promised to call the Senate to session even on the Fourth of July.

Later, as Democrats churned out legislation as if they were late for a fundraiser, another staffer said in pure astonishment, "They have smiles on their faces like it's a joke, like they are getting away with something! We're gonna be here for a while."

State Senate 33


State Senate 33
Kingsbridge, Van Cortland Village, Norwood, Kingsbridge Heights, Bedford Park, University Heights, Fordham, Tremont, Mount Hope, East Tremont, Bronx Park South

State Senate Representative
J. Gustavo Rivera

Party: D
Campaign Activity

J. Gustavo Rivera

Committee Assignments: Banks,Crime Victims, Crime and Correction,Finance,Health,Higher Education, Labor

Contact:
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.nyssenate33.com

 

 

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State Senate 34


State Senate 34
Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Throgsneck, City Island, Woodlawn, Norwood, Wakefield, Yonkers, Pelham, Pelham Manor, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon

State Senate Representative
Jeffrey Klein

Party: D, WF, I
Campaign Activity
Voting record: on Project Vote Smart

Committee Assignments: Alcoholism and Drug Abuse - Chair Person,Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation,Hudson Valley Delegation - Chair Person,Local Government,Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities,Task Force on Government Efficiency - Chair Person,Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform,Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs

Jeffrey  Klein

Albany Office:
427 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247


Mount Vernon,NY Office:
Mount Vernon Armory144 North 5th Avenue
Mount Vernon,NY, NY 10550


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State Senate 31


State Senate 31
West Side of Manhattan, Northwest Bronx

State Senate Representative
Eric Schneiderman

Party: D, WF, I
Campaign Activity
Voting record: on Project Vote Smart

Committee Assignments: Codes (Chair); Children & Families; Environmental Conservation; Energy & Telecommunications; Higher Education; Judiciary; Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks & Recreation

Eric  Schneiderman

Albany Office:
708 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247


New York Office:
80 Bennett Avenue, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10033


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Website: http://www.nyssenate31.com

 

 

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State Senate 30


State Senate 30
Harlem, Upper West Side, Washington Heights

State Senate Representative
Bill Perkins

Party: D, WF
Campaign Activity
Voting record: on Project Vote Smart

Committee Assignments: Budget and Tax Reform,Civil Service and Pensions,Codes,Corporations, Authorities and Commissions,Environmental Conservation,Finance,Judiciary,Labor,New York State Conference of Black Senators,Rules,Transportation

Bill  Perkins

Albany Office:
817 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247


New York Office:
163 West 125th StreetBuilding, Suite 912
New York, NY 10027


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State Senate 29


State Senate 29
Manhattan's West Side from 77th Street to Battery Park, sections of East Midtown, Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown

State Senate Representative
Thomas K Duane

Party: D, WF
Campaign Activity
Voting record: on Project Vote Smart

Committee Assignments: Codes,Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation,Finance,Health,Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Rules

Thomas K Duane

Albany Office:
430 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247


New York Office:
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1700
New York, NY 10001


Contact:
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.nyssenate29.com

 

 

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