Thursday, December 11, 2008

Albany Reformation

The NY Daily News editorializes today about the collapse of the deal to make Malcolm Smith the new senate leader-and makes legislative reform its centerpiece. In the process, however, it misconstrues what actually transpired: "State Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens has called off the unsavory deal he made with three lawmakers who tried to extort power and perks in exchange for backing him as majority leader. Now, Smith must take a bolder step to prove he has what it takes to be one of the three most powerful elected officials in New York: He must deliver on a promise to reform Albany."

What the News sees as. "unsavory," was a deal that encompasses the very reforms the paper feels are vital: "He should campaign for leader on a platform of making the Senate a true legislative body. That would mean ending boss rule. That would mean giving committees independence to hold hearings and shape bills. That would mean giving minority-party members the voice they now lack in the legislative process."

All of these important changes comprised the centerpiece-the very essence-of what the three amigos had negotiated: and what Smith had signed off on. The News goes on to throw down the gauntlet to both Smith and Dean Skelos: "Wednesday, Smith declared that Democrats would rather stay in the minority than do business with shakedown artists - which should have been his guiding principle from the start. Now, let him rebuild his reputation on a reform platform, going head to head with all comers for the job, including Republican rival Dean Skelos. May the the best leader win. What a concept."

Well said, except for the shakedown allegation. The larger truth is that the three dissidents, while looking to enhance their own influence-something that apparently shocks everyone-weren't sure they could trust the Reformation process to Smith without assurances backed by the governor. The governor, who attended the negotiations, did just that. The truth? Malcolm was really rolled by his own folks-who wanted the quids and quos for the pros-themselves.