Monday, May 12, 2008

NY Times Slams Paterson's Reform Reversal

The New York Times had some harsh words for Governor Paterson yesterday on the question of reform in Albany. Now that some time has passed since he became the top dog in New York, his zeal for reform has nearly disappeared. He made a vain attempt at looking interested at the end of Reform Day two weeks ago, but in legislation, where it counts, he has done next to nothing. Philip Anderson at the Albany Project is 'giving him the benefit of the doubt', but no such thing exists at the Times.

From The NY Times:

Before he suddenly became New York’s governor, David Paterson was a committed reformer. In his years as a state senator (and leader of the Democratic minority), he called for limiting special-interest money, public financing of elections, and sweeping out as much muck as possible from the State Legislature.

Now that Mr. Paterson finally has the power he has lost his zeal. He has not charted any real plan to push a resistant Legislature toward reform. He has said his focus is on steadying the state in hard economic times.

A steady hand is important. But voters also want reform, Albany desperately needs it, and it is very, very cheap. The only thing that could cost money — public financing for campaigns — would save over the long run. All those lobbyists would have more trouble skewing state money to special interests.

The No. 1 reform should be an end to the system that allows legislators to draw their own districts so that they are re-elected pretty much for life. Mr. Paterson needs to begin pushing now for a constitutional amendment creating a nonpartisan commission on redistricting like those in Iowa and Maine.

Most of Mr. Paterson’s friends in the Legislature will not want to give up this self-serving operation. Senator Malcolm Smith, who leads the Democratic minority, has backed away from this reform, especially if Democrats win full control of the Legislature this year. Mr. Paterson has the power to shame, if he has the will. He needs to start publicly pressing the redistricting reform and threatening vetoes — of money for the current redistricting system and of any future proposal that is not done fairly.

That will seems to have evaporated into the dirty air that envelops the State Capitol. I wish I could say differently, but Paterson will have to prove he still believes in the reform he talked so much about when he was in the State Senate. Words are words, and action is the only thing that matters.