State Sen. Martin Connor Secretly “Supported” Pricing All Along

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. 

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    Nice job sblog bringing these items to the forefront. Really, what kind of leaders are we electing? I almost can’t believe I just heard that.

    Time to throw everyone out and start from scratch.

  • mike

    Conner is my State Senator. Very disappointing. It’s amazing how our leaders seem completely incapable of leading.

  • Competitive primaries

    “I support” and “I work hard to make this happen” are two very different things.

    We need the type of people in elected office that will “make thing happen” through their persuasiveness, their intelligence and their passion on issues that matter to New Yorkers. I’m not sure the current crop of Democrats that represent Manhattan in the state are deserving of their offices.

  • brent

    With the Republican Party withering (there’s a pretty good report in this week’s New Yorker on the topic) I foresee a day real soon when the Democrats split into two or more parties. I hope this will be a day of reckoning for leeches like Sen. Connor.

  • Mark Walker

    Memo to people in Connor’s district: Support him, but don’t vote for him.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll say it again — if they were not publicly out front in support before the non-vote, they were almost certainly opposed, probably strongly opposed, because of their own interests and those of their campaign contributors and sponsors.

    The are mad at Bloomberg for forcing a choice between the people they nominally represent and the people they actually represent.

    If CP has passed, and drivers and placard holders were raising hell instead of Streetsblog, these same legislators would be claiming they were “secretly” against but were strong armed. The outcome reflects their actual positions.

  • Red

    Mark, that is classic.

  • Sen. Connor’s comments are exactly what’s wrong with Albany and it’s why I’m running for State Senate this November. He’s completely out of touch with his district and doesn’t understand (and doesn’t care) about issues important to the people he’s supposed to represent. He thinks he’s entitled to his office because he’s been there for thirty years. Let’s send good ole Marty a clear message this November and some shock waves up in Albany! Join me in making a real difference this November. And remember it’s Your Voice…..Your Vote!

  • JF

    If it turns out that a majority of Assemblymembers secretly supported congestion pricing, I’m going to be mighty pissed.

  • Clarence

    I am secretly supporting Sen. Connor’s ouster for not serving his constituents. Unless of course there is a vote. Oh wait there will be!

  • Brent Osborn

    I think Mr. Squadron just gained a new supporter. Connor disgusts me.

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    Awesome, two chances! If Squadron can’t win the primary, then cross party lines for Chromczak in the Fall.

  • Sam Chaley

    Thanks Mr. Connor, you coward. I think I’ll take your lead and “support” you in the fall while voting for Mr. Squadron.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Marty’s expertise is the minutiae of election law. He will make sure that John G. Chromczak’s petitions are exposed to all the scrutiny allowed by those laws. As hurt as these bloggers are by the failure of congestion pricing I just don’t see it rising to the level of something that will throw enough of the bums out to make any difference at all. In fact, failing to oust the Connors and the Silvers of this world will only tend to ratify their non-position. It falls under the Churchill rule, “there is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at unsuccessfully.” Or if you will, the Machiavelli corollary preceding the Churchill rule, “never slap a Prince.”

  • mfs

    Niccolo- you’re a good observer of the state political scene and observe well Connor’s secret superpower of the petition challenge– so what do you think about this race given the previous challenge in 2006?

    Ken Diamondstone ran against Connor last time and got something like 40-45% of the vote. I think that softened up Connor to the point where he has to attend candidate forums like this one with a challenger with less gravitas and community ties than Ken but better connections to the Dem establishment. Your post would seem to indicate you disagree- that this only reinforces his power. Thoughts?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Mr. Prince, I think we’ve experimented with sucking up to the overlords for years, and the results have not been promising.

    And again, CP is the least of my concerns. It probably would have been voted down in a free vote, and they at least had a public debate.

    Peasant uprisings might be suppressed. But when you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I think that is referred to as “sans culotte” politics. (“A sans-culotte is someone who goes everywhere on foot, who isn’t loaded with money like the rest of you, but lives quietly with his wife and children . . . on the fourth or fifth floor”) If you truly have nothing then you truly have nothing to lose. I personally have more than nothing, I think I’m doing pretty good and in fact have a lot to lose. Thats what generally keeps me and people like me from getting too far out in front in battles with a high possibility of defeat. I do, how ever, admire the valiant principled loser, I often vote for them (secret ballot). But I admire him from afar.

    I supported Diamondstone last time and he gave it an impressive shot. Conceivably Marty could be had with proper organization and funding. It really doesn’t do him much good to run around to events like this but if pressure from Diamondstone has had this effect then more pressure would get us more Marty. I’m not sure that is a good thing.

    The New York Senate races could be very volatile this year as Bruno hangs on to his majority by only two seats. Also, having O’Bama at the top of the ticket ought to bring out the influential Irish-American vote and that could hurt Marty too depending on who the candidate is.

    Shelly, Marty and Joe are all powerful people, process reformers view them as evil forces. I think there is a sort of watershed when activists observe the sunset of one player or the other, and everyone jumps off their ship. It will be interesting when and if 1199 gives up on Bruno, I’m thinking they won’t. One way or another the process itself, the political center of gravity and the jurisdictions aren’t about to change any time soon. There is no government reform movement that addresses fundamental change in the city/suburb power relationship.

  • Mark Walker

    If the peak-oil crisis depopulates the suburbs, the city/suburb relationship could change overnight. All assumptions about suburban power, like the existence of suburbs themselves, depends on an unending supply of cheap fossil fuels. And guess what? That condition no longer applies. As car-centric property value plummets, today’s suburbs become tomorrow’s slums. That could definitely change the power equation. Into what, I’m not sure.

  • mfs

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I dunno, I think Marty seemed pretty rusty up there and really failed to connect with the audience. The only time he seemed right on was with challenging Squadron’s local ties. But I hear you on the stickiness of power cliques. A Senate flip would change a lot other than Bruno- certainly many Assembly Dems worry that the liberal bills they pass might actually become law.

    The main thing about the CP defeat that will have broader resonance beyond us bloggers and streets advocates is that the uptown NYT editorial followers have a concrete screwup to point to as an example of Albany’s dysfunction- something that didn’t exist in a real way before this.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe that even after all his lies and deceits Connor keeps getting elected. For my part, I’m voting John Chromczak, he’s a responsible guy who wants to work hard to clean up the mess made by Connor.

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