By Alan S. Chartock | April 6, 2018

We know that most people know little or nothing about state government. I’d hate to hazard a guess as to how many New Yorkers actually know the name of the lieutenant governor. Ignorance of politics works to the advantage of the politicians who practice their rather obscure art. We know that Donald Trump has sucked all the oxygen out of the political atmosphere but that’s not really the cause of the terrible situation. The creatures of the legislative deep are allowed to do (or not do) their business out of the public eye. In fact, if the state capital was New York City rather than Albany, more people would be interested just as they are with the less powerful New York City Council. That’s because in New York, the media puts out the stuff on a daily basis. In Albany, not so much. Maybe if the Democrats take the State Senate, the Capitol might be moved to the Big Apple but I doubt it since the last thing these characters and especially their leaders want is to get more attention.

Take the case of the long sought after legislative pay raise. On the surface, the people in the legislative slime deserve a pay raise. They haven’t had one for a long, long time. Everyone deserves a chance to keep up with inflation. However, dig a little deeper and it gets a bit more complicated. We all know that many of these legislators are practitioners of what George W. Plunkitt called “honest graft.” Look at it this way: a guy with a legal matter has a choice of going to Lawyer Smith or to Lawyer-Senator Jones (with all his or her influence). Where do you think he’s going to go? The last time they wanted and almost got a pay raise, Governor Cuomo correctly said something like, “Sure, but you will have to eschew all outside income.” That’s when they turned down the pay raise. They were too busy making out like bandits the good old legal grafting way. This time, for whatever reason, all the governor asked for was an on time budget. They got to keep their outside honest graft. Disgusting.

Also, since the budget is the place where a lot of substantive legislation finds a home, the four men in the room killed a lot of good stuff like that excellent idea which would have allowed victims of sexual predators a so-called “look back” to sue and hold predators legally accountable. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, made it clear that this would hurt the Catholic Church and it was not included in the budget. An Orthodox Jewish leader in the Senate, Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), a hypocritical Democrat who keeps the Republicans in power by voting with them, demanded that Orthodox parochial schools not have the same educational mandates as everyone else. He got something for his efforts in the budget.

“And so,” as Linda Ellerbee used to say, “it goes.” These clowns give new meaning to the word disgusting.

We are all so fed up that when a moment of levity comes up, it goes viral in the news cycle. Ken Lovett of the NY Daily News, probably the best journalist in New York and a guy who holds everyone’s feet to the fire, got arrested for speaking on a cell phone in the Senate Chamber lobby. With all the nonsense that these creeps are responsible for, this is the height of chutzpah. They put Ken in handcuffs and led him out. Everyone talks on their cell phones including the senators and there are lots of pictures to prove it. Apparently, the Senate cop who confronted him made reference to Ken’s weight! That just ain’t right. The governor ran across the street to help get Ken out of jail but his captors had already apologized. Didn’t matter — the Governor still got the credit. Ah, Albany.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].