Get Real: Drop the Clean up Albany

September 2010
Get Real: Drop the “Clean up Albany”
When I hear or read about Andy Cuomo and Ed Koch amongst others wanting to clean up Albany, I think of two inner city young people (a brother and sister) my wife and I mentored a couple of years ago. One time we took them to the ballet at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and for a walk on the main street of Saratoga. On Saratoga’s Broadway, the young lady asked why Saratoga’s Broadway is so clean when the streets in Albany were dirty and messy.
But that is not what Cuomo, Koch and others are talking about, albeit that it would be nice if they were giving more attention to cleaning up our cities. They are talking about corruption personified by some downstate legislators, lobbyists and redistricting. They aren’t talking about solving the blight associated with the vacant and abandoned buildings in cities across the State including about 900 in the City of Albany. Nor are they talking about restoring the upstate economy let alone improving the whole economy of the State and what needs to be done in substantive areas like education and the environment and so on and so forth.
There was a time when cleaning up Albany made sense. That was in the 1940s and 1950s when Governor’s Dewey and Rockefeller went after the Albany “machine”. We learn in William Kennedy’s book, OALBANY, that “Between August 1943 and February 1046 he (Governor Dewey) spend half a million dollars on formal appropriations trying to break Dan’s (legendary boss Dan O’Connell) power, though the total cost of his investigation including his use of state services, and police, was said to be $1.5 million”. That was when a million dollars was real money. Yet, Dewey didn’t get O’Connell who died in power in the 70s.
Andy’s father, former Governor Cuomo, is said to have told the story about Dan being marooned on an island with another man and only one coconut between them. They decided to take a vote on who should eat it, and when the vote was counted Dan won, 110 to 1.
Today, Dan is long gone and so is the Albany democratic machine except for left over Mayor who clings to power and can tack democratic or republican as he did with former Governor Pataki. The voters in Albany seem not to realize the machine is dead, but it really, really is dead.
Yet, cleaning up Albany continues to be a straw man that helped bring former Governor Spitzer down and at best is not likely to serve Andy Cuomo and certainly the needs of the people well.
Independent redistricting sounds good, but it is only a step towards what can be called rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Does anyone really think we are going to get rid of lobbyists and pay-to-play. Corporate and special interest money is in grained in local, state and national politics and only getting worst as time goes by.
If there is an answer and I would like to think there is, it rests with real leadership that engages the State’s citizenry in substantive tasks like reducing poverty, reinvesting and reviving our cities, supporting a sustainable economy including tapping the innovation and creativity that that sometimes manifests itself in our abundant public and private institutions of higher education and realizing the potential of our State’s heritage and natural environment that is unmatched anywhere else in the nation. Creative engagement of the State’s aging baby boomers is an untapped resource.
So, stop picking on Albany even if it is an easy way to pander to public sentiment. Let us, instead, get our candidates to tell us what specifically they are going to do realize the high potential for quality of life the State of New York.

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One Response to “Get Real: Drop the Clean up Albany”

  1. Douglas Boettner Says:

    Dead on accurate. I have been preaching the same for years; the Albany power structure is to solid. The problems in Albany need to be attacked at a more grass roots level. Trying to get reforms passed by the very people who will be most adversely affected by the same reforms is wishful thinking at best.

    I am a baby boomer. I spent 36+ years working as a public employee for New York State. I was the Director of Contracts with the State Comptroller’s Office for over 24 years. I’m retired now and I have offered my services pro bono to both the governor and to the mayor of Albany. Neither has taken me up on it. My assumption is that they don’t want anyone from outside their circle to come in and make suggestions to improve their operations without having control of the situation.

    So now I write about what I see and what I know here on The Empire Page.

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