Ravitch Can Bring Peace to Albany

This man has a gift for getting along with people

On Wednesday, Richard Ravitch and I were having lunch in the same restaurant.  I didn't realize he was there until he came over to my table and greeted me warmly  When I asked what was new, he said with a mischievous smile: ''Tune in at 5 o'clock!''
I knew the Governor was speaking at that hour but I didn't understand that Ravitch was going to be at the center of that address, and that Governor Paterson would announce he was appointing Ravitch as lt. governor.  So much for my brilliant reportorial insight!
The encounter in the restaurant was only momentary -- but with the benefit of hindsight I can say that Ravitch seemed exuberant and happy.  I have known the man for more than 40 years and, from what I know of him, I am sure he welcomes this new challenge. If anybody can help Albany get past the stupidity and recriminations of recent weeks, he can.
This man has a gift for getting along with people. Intellectually, he can grasp problems easily and, most important, come up with solutions that are built on a spirit of compromise.
I remember his days at the Urban Development Corporation and as the boss of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He had the trust of the governors who appointed him and earned the trust of leaders of both political parties in Albany.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the Times that Ravitch was a man who "does not have an iota of the arrogance that you'd think someone of his accomplishments would be entitled to." Ravitch's longtime business partner, Irving Fischer, described Ravitch as "a standup guy who will not take pushing around but, on the other hand, he also knows how to reach agreement with people."
Of course, there's the not so small matter of whether or not Governor Paterson has the legal power to appoint a lt. governor to a vacancy. The State Constitution doesn't provide for it and, although Paterson's lawyers claim there is a law that can be interpreted to mean he can do this, that is far from certain.
So, instead of breaking the deadlock that exists in the State Senate, this move could actually compound the problem. We may face the nightmare of endless law suits as  lawyers and judges fight it out over the ills that afflict the State Senate. 
From a political standpoint, Paterson seems to have done the right thing. At least he is trying to end the insanity that afflicts Albany -- and that's far better than doing nothing.

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