is not an opinion writer. He’s not someone who comments on the large trends of society, but a solid, well-respected reporter who has been covering the New York State government in Albany for the last 30 years. Keep that in mind when reading his despairing
ALBANY, I GIVE UP
STATE GOVERNMENT HAS NEVER BEEN SO CLOWNISH, SO EVIL, SO IRRELEVANT
By FREDRIC U. DICKER
July 5, 2009
Having witnessed the anarchy, chaos and lack of leadership that has engulfed the state Capitol during the past month, I have a painful confession to make.
After three decades as a journalist covering state government, if I had to do it all over again, I’d find another job.
I’ve covered Govs. Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and for New York to wind up like this after 35 years of modern leadership, it’s clear to me that my real job has been to chronicle the devolution—the decay and decline—of New York state.
We’re going backwards, not forwards, and of late we’ve even been falling apart.
The Empire State—once a beacon of progressive state government to the nation—is on the brink of ruin. And it doesn’t look like anything can be done to stop it.
In two words: We’re doomed.
Hapless Gov. Paterson and the street-fighting leaders of the state Senate have, as everyone knows, turned state government into a national laughingstock.
Within the Capitol itself, where knowledge of the disaster is more acute, the assessments are far harsher and more personally painful. They are disbelief, disgust, and even despair.
I’ve had a dozen low- to mid-level staffers—hallway cleaners, messengers, guards, sergeants at arms, researchers, and lawyers—buttonhole me in recent days and, in a hushed voice, make comments such as, “I’m ashamed to work here,” “I’ve given my life for this?” and “I feel like I work for morons.”
The GOP-led Senate coup attempt that began June 8 has paralyzed state government and transformed a Senate once known for a gentility and friendliness rooted in a rural upstate sensibility into a frighteningly unrecognizable doppelganger of the fisticuffs-prone South Korean parliament.
Under the Democratic control that began in January, the Senate’s traditional civility gave way to a crude, rude, nasty and thuggish style that has long associated with late-night New York City community board meetings, or some outer borough Democratic caucuses.
The failed coup attempt has made it worse and the Senate today stands as not just a house divided between the two major parties but as a house divided within one of the major parties as three separate Democratic factions angrily and nastily battle for control.
The most glaring example of the thug-like behavior occurred on the Senate floor Wednesday as several burly, thick-necked men suddenly began flanking the podium in an apparent attempt by Democrats, who claim to control of the chamber, to block Republicans from rushing up.
The move was shocking because the Senate already has several professionally trained and experienced sergeants at arms, many retired state troopers, who do a fine job keeping order.
Several Democratic senators including Pedro Espada of the Bronx, John Sampson of Brooklyn and Malcolm Smith of Queens have also appeared with bullish bodyguards and other “body men” for the first time ever.
One Democratic faction, loyal to Sampson, has begun spying on members of the faction loyal Smith, and even preparing reports on their activities.
Journalists like myself have always been granted free access to the Senate but two weeks ago Democrats sought to bar journalists from the chamber, only backing down in the face of the protests from several angry scribes.
During the long years of Republican control, the all-white GOP “conference” would regularly bemoan its lack of diversity, and make extra efforts to recruit minority Senate candidates and hire minority staff.
During the first five months of this year, with the Senate under the control of its first African-American majority leader, Smith, top Democrats bemoaned the lack of minority Senate staffers.
But instead of trying to recruit new hires, they fired nearly 200 almost exclusively white workers and replaced them with a large number of minority employees, many of whom were seen by their fellow workers to be unskilled at their new jobs.
The move produced severe racial tensions, made worse by the fact that, as a high-level Democratic staffer confided, “We’ve been told to only hire minorities.”
We have an accidental governor widely seen as weak and irrelevant and, in recent days, he’s become a latter-day Chicken Little issuing false warnings of disaster as the June 30 deadline approached for the expiration of mayoral control of city schools.
Even members of his own Democratic Party didn’t take the deadline serious and when it passed, no one could tell the difference.
Paterson has been publicly insulted in recent days by his fellow Democrats in a way no other governor ever was in recorded history, and he’s refused to respond.
We saw the governor do flip-flops right before our eyes on a key issue related to the Senate dispute, confirming the now-common belief that his stands merely mirror the views of the last person he speaks with.
I first came to New York’s magnificent Capitol building in the wake of the state’s fiscal crisis in 1977, when Carey, a World War II battle hero, was still winning plaudits for rescuing the city and state from the fiscal crisis.
The scrappy Carey was considered a national class political figure—as befitted a state that had produced other national class 20th century governors such as Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Al Smith, Tom Dewey, Averell Harriman and Nelson Rockefeller.
Mario Cuomo, whose fame as an intellect and great orator spread nationally, followed Carey.
Republican Pataki promised sweeping reforms but quickly retreated in the face of a resistant Legislature and powerful special interests.
After 12 years of Pataki, New Yorkers yearned for change, which is why Spitzer’s colossal political and moral failures were such a tragedy.
Paterson, Spitzer’s unexpected successor, talked like a reformer when he took office in March 2008, but his collapse as a leader has been so sweeping as to be unlike anything seen in the history of New York. He’s now the least popular governor in the United States.
Is any more proof needed that New York has gone down the drain?
Fredric Dicker is The Post’s state editor.
Dust off your guns.
After reading Fred’s artticle I knew all along the Blacks in office now were responsible.This is how they act, take notice New Yorkers who care about there liberties and what’s right.I am so sick of this Black this and Black that.The Racist today is the Black man and it’s obvious in NY Politics.
30 yr. prosecutor wrote:
30% of the legislature’s payroll is n-show and little-show jobs that siphon money out of the treasury to pay for things like anything one can imagine. Legislators get a name and a Social Securioty Number and plink the person on the payroll. They never show up but the checks find their way into the pockets of friends and business associates of Assemblymen and Senators. Oftentimes they put each others girlfriend on each other payrolls. Make a list of all the Assmblymen and Senators that have been convicted of crimes while in or just after leaving office. Then add the ones who committed crimes but had their cases fixed by compliant DA’s and Us Attorney’s. When Christ chased the money changers out of the Temple he named the NY Legislature—“a den of thieves.”
Thanks Fred Dicker for printing the truth about what is going on in ALBANY. Its not Dem vs Rep its been made by the black caucus a race thing black vs white. The sooner we recognize the problem maybe we can fix it.
I am not sympathetic. New York now deserves whatever it gets.
Maybe if Frederic Dicker hadn’t launched his vicious, vindictive “Get Spitzer at any cost” witch hunt over made up nonsense like Troopergate which went no where New York wouldn’t be a national laughingstock now.
Happy now? Remember be careful what you wish for because it can come true.
Frederic Dicker should be ashamed of his over the top irresponsible reporting.
High Falls wrote:
“…they fired nearly 200 almost exclusively white workers and replaced them with a large number of minority employees, many of whom were seen by their fellow workers to be unskilled at their new jobs”…”We’ve been told to only hire minorities”.
Maybe Governor Patterson and the Democrat-Socialists should take the white-owned farms next. I hear that’s working out like a charm in Zimbabwe.
Jackie Aprile is the Best wrote:
What do unskilled minorities have to do with anything? The heck with skills; “empathy” and “diversity” are the only qualifications that matter. Go Obama, Go Socialism
Don’t blame me, I voted Libertarian.
Everyone who runs for office should be given a psych exam along with drug testing…. and an Intelligence test to prove they had an education.
And yes—a Birth Certificate also!