Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: Good on Street Safety, Iffy on Transit

For the first time in two decades, the New York State Assembly has a new speaker. Assembly Democrats elected Carl Heastie of the Bronx to succeed longtime speaker Sheldon Silver, a week after Silver was indicted on federal corruption charges.

Photo: @CarlHeastie
Photo: @CarlHeastie

Until a few days ago, Heastie wasn’t all that well-known outside the Bronx, where he is the Democratic party leader. While we don’t know much about his stance on transportation policy, he does have a voting record on street safety and transit issues.

Here’s a rundown.

As for changing the pay-to-play culture in Albany and reforming the “democracy of one” system that empowers the speaker at the expense of rank-and-file legislators and shrouds the Assembly in secrecy, Heastie is an unlikely candidate to shake things up.

Heastie raised eyebrows in 2013 when he introduced a bill legalizing predatory payday loans after receiving $10,000 in campaign contributions from the check-cashing industry. And not only did Silver vote for Heastie today, he appeared at the Monday closed-door meeting where Heastie’s ascension actually took place, and endorsed him. “He’s a good man and he’ll do a good job,” Silver said.

That means Rochester representative David Gantt, Silver’s gatekeeper for legislation on the transportation committee, probably isn’t going to lose his chairmanship.

  • Kevin Love

    Perhaps we need to reform the office of speaker. A Westminster-style non-partisan speaker seems to work much better.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Politicians can be put into two categories.

    Those who owe their long tenure and popularity to selling out the collective future to reward those interest groups on the inside (like Silver, Bruno, Pataki, Skelos, and most legislators).

    And those who either will hand out the resulting sacrifices, or refuse to do so and thereby make them even worse for younger generations (like Christie).

    DeBlasio, Cuomo and Heastie are in the latter camp. Their first test is the MTA Capital plan and state transportation trust fund.

  • Joe R.

    What’s really happening here is an inherent flaw of all representative democracies. Eventually the electorate is able to vote in people who will give them stuff using other people’s money. It takes a while to get to this point, perhaps because the great-great grandchildren of those who founded a democracy are just enjoying the benefits, but not putting in the sacrifices like their ancestors did. For whatever reason, this pattern has been common to all such societies. First you have revolution, then a period where representatives are elected who truly govern for the greater good. Eventually, people get elected based on how much they give their constituents. Soon, these constituents elect those who pass the costs down to future generations. Not long after, the system implodes and you need another revolution to fix it. We’re about 20 years away from that in my opinion. A big collapse of the US monetary system is almost inevitable as the house of cards built by borrowing comes crashing down. We have student loan debt, personal credit card debt, government debt, public agency debt. This mountain of debt is long past the point where it can be paid back. In fact, it’s getting to the point where even debt service will be prohibitive. Add in the failing infrastructure which ensures the US will remain uncompetitive on the world stage. Once we can’t service the debt via taxes collected the system will collapse. Remember the biggest line item in the federal budget is interest on the national debt. That’s scary.

  • Kevin Love

    “Once we can’t service the debt via taxes collected the system will collapse.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    The budget was in surplus during the last Clinton presidency. The current deficit is due to irresponsible tax cuts and two major unfunded wars. Both can be easily reversed.

    There are all kinds of options for additional taxes that the USA’s economy will easily bear. A national sales tax, like every other industrialized country uses, will immediately put the budget back into surplus.

  • Bolwerk

    What do you call a revolution? Looks to me like the UK hasn’t seen one in centuries.

  • Bolwerk

    The federal deficit becoming a threat is almost implausible unless somebody chooses to make a political crisis out of it (gee, who would do that?).

    State and local deficits might actually be scary.