Is There Intelligent Life on Planet Albany?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    New York State Gov. David Paterson (L) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) listen during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill Oct. 29, 2008, in Washington, D.C.

    Gov. David Paterson last week hung a new name on New York state government and its penchant for political gridlock in the face of crisis: Planet Albany.

      Now the question is whether there's any sign of intelligent life here.
     
    Take Tuesday. Paterson compelled more than 200 lawmakers to act in emergency session to confront what all agreed was a historic fiscal crisis. They gathered in the Capitol's ornate Red Room, commanded through fiscal disaster and corruption by such governors as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Alfred E. Smith and Hugh L. Carey. Then, today's leaders swiftly jumped to inaction.
     
    The only result of the session was proof that dysfunction isn't a bump in the road, as lawmakers would have you believe, but the road itself.
     
    Paterson proposed $5 billion in specific cuts he said were absolutely required as start to address a projected $47 billion in deficits over the next three years. Albany's powerful lobbyists screamed; the Legislature listened.
     
    "Gutless wonders," the New York Daily News declared in coverage of Tuesday's so-called leaders meeting that set new records for bickering and name-calling, but yielded no agreement to ease the crisis.
     
    Paterson, who has so far been admired for his tough talk, was exasperated with lawmakers who didn't publicly submit any proposals for spending cuts as he asked and didn't privately support any of his.
     
    "It's embarrassing," Paterson said before the special session. "This is a total farce."
     
    But Paterson also didn't force lawmakers back to A   --In October, Senate Republicans helped force the resignation of Paterson's longtime chief of staff, Charles O'Byrne, after it was revealed that he didn't pay taxes for five years.
     
    --In May, lawmakers said a rogue element in the state police were following them. Although unproven, the white hot scandal forced a former police commander out of his subsequent state job and was thought to contribute to the suicide of two state police retirees.
     
    --In March, Paterson got a rocky start to office when the political climate in Albany forced him to divulge past marital affairs during a period when he was headed toward divorce.
     
    --In March, Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation amid a prostitution investigation emboldened the Legislature the hard-charging Spitzer had tried to reform.
     
    --In September 2007, Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco took the lead in ridiculing and ultimately defeating Spitzer's ill-advised effort to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.
     
    --From June 2007 to March 2008, Senate Republicans gridlocked Spitzer after they claimed he used state police for political espionage against then-Senate leader Joseph Bruno. A half-dozen Spitzer appointees were forced from public service but no one has been charged after five investigations.
     
    --In February 2007, Spitzer's reform juggernaut was derailed just a month into office. The Legislature rescinded its agreement to fill the comptroller's job -- vacated by scandal in 2006 -- from independently vetted candidates. Instead, they picked one of their own.

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