With state primary campaigns ramping up, Observer political reporter Azi Paybarah seems to be everywhere with his video camera. In this clip from a debate held by Democracy for New York City, he captures State Senator Martin Connor, who represents lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, in an unprompted admission of legislative cowardice.
While fielding a question about protecting marine life, Connor launches into a defense of his environmental record. Slightly after the four-minute mark, he serves up this gem: "Congestion pricing — I supported it. I didn’t tell anybody; I didn’t take a position on it. I supported it." Ah, so that’s how lawmakers "support" bills tailor-made to benefit the vast majority of their constituents — by keeping their thoughts to themselves until it’s too late to actually influence the course of events.
Immediately after that confession, Connor falls back on the talking points we heard yesterday from his Albany colleague Dick Gottfried: "I was very disappointed — and frankly it’s the mayor’s fault… He did a terrible job of selling it, not to the public, but selling it to the people who had to vote on it." I get it. The job of a state senator is to wait for the mayor to throw you and your friends a bone. After 30 years in office, I guess the term "public servant" tends to lose its luster.
For his part, Connor’s challenger, Dan Squadron, appears more at ease explaining his positions and calls out the state legislature for letting pricing "die in a back room." Squadron, a former aide to Chuck Schumer who campaigned to pass the New York State Transportation Bond Act, says the pricing bill wasn’t perfect, but that "it had to be passed."
Connor’s stab at reform-minded talk is a little less convincing. "My preference would have been, so put it out, and have an up-or-down vote," he says, before trailing off and ending his turn at the mic. Was that a secret too?
We’ll say this for Connor: At least he showed up to debate, which is more than we’ve seen from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this election season.