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Albany Reform

Help Wanted: Legislators Needed to Fix Broken Capital

11:31 AM EDT on April 14, 2008

Can't wait for someone to challenge Shelly Silver, Deborah Glick, Hakeem Jeffries, Joan Millman and other members of the Albany crew that didn't allow congestion pricing to even come up for a vote? Neither can the New York Times.

In a scathing editorial published on Saturday, the Times issued a call for change in the state capital, appealing for more Paul Newells to step forward and run against incumbent pols.

Any New Yorker who is not furious at the mention of their statecapital, Albany, has not been paying attention. There are the sexscandals that forced one governor out of office and prompted hisreplacement to confess more details of his own indiscretions thananyone wanted to hear. The state comptroller quit last year afterpleading guilty to misusing public assets. This week an Assembly memberwas convicted of corruption and faces up to a decade in jail. Angry yet?

The place needs a thorough cleaning -- a giant broom to sweep out therascals, starting with the State Legislature. We are not in favor ofterm limits, but the idea gains currency when most people who getelected in New York State keep their seats until they retire, die or goto jail.

The ballot box is still the best form of term limits.So, here is how to change Albany: find and support somebody daring andthick-skinned enough to run against the local legislator.

We arenot saying it will be easy. The system is rigged against challengers.It takes money, mostly for lawyers to fight lawyers whose job it is tokeep other candidates off ballots. It takes time, energy and patienceto fight a system so patently anti-democratic.

One example: thepetitions to get on the ballot this year are probably due in earlyJune, but the New York State Board of Elections has not yet posted theofficial schedule. For the record, state leaders appoint the members ofthat board.

Still, it is possible to run. And right now is thetime to find challengers, especially for members of the Assembly.Albany’s stagnation is at its worst there. The cowardly failure ofDemocrats -- especially Speaker Sheldon Silver -- to allow a vote on NewYork City’s congestion-pricing plan was the latest example of why achange, in both parties' delegations, is essential.

At leastthe competition is intense on the State Senate side where Democrats arechallenging the Republicans’ slim majority. Switching to a Democraticmajority would at least demote Senate Leader Joseph Bruno, who is underfederal investigation and a grand master of Albany’s business as usual.But the Assembly has 150 mostly unchallenged seats, and since this istechnically a democracy, each race deserves more than one candidate.

InManhattan, where the Democratic primary is the election, it is time tochallenge even the most established members of the Legislature -- likeAssemblyman Richard Gottfried on the West Side or Assemblywoman DeborahGlick. And it is far past time for a serious reformer to challenge Mr.Silver in his Chinatown base.

New York, of course, needs morethan a few new faces. The state goes begging for challengers who aregenuinely committed to changing Albany’s corrupt ways. Candidates needto promise a real reform of the scandalous campaign finance system,including public financing. And they should pledge their support for anonpartisan commission to draw legislative districts.

NewYorkers deserve to be mad as hell about Albany, and their best revengeis at the ballot box. All they need now is to find decent candidates.

Streetsbloggers -- know any "decent candidates" you'd like to see take a run at an incumbent next fall?

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