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Paterson’s Last Days

October 27, 2010

David Paterson is having fun tweaking lawmakers.

His own staff tried hard to convince him not to call a special session of the legislature after the elections, but he wasn’t listening.

Part of this is payback. He thinks lawmakers disrespected him, and now he’s trying to embarrass them.

Part of it is Paterson’s own struggle for relevance. He’s always been a bit deluded about his status. Remember when he took over for Spitzer? In front of the lawmakers, he said: “Let me introduce myself. I’m David Paterson. And I’m the Governor!”

The tone of that presentation was all wrong. It was celebratory and exulting. It was as if he thought he’d done something extraordinary to the get there.

Later, Paterson would bristle at being called “the accidental governor.” He actually suggested there was something unfair and racially derogatory about that term.

And to this day, he, a former lawmaker, insists on antagonizing lawmakers.

To be constructive, we offer the following list of ways in which Paterson might legitimately and constructively exercise his power for the next 60 days:

The governor can grant clemency. Why not conduct a careful review of all the cases that might merit clemency based on humanitarian grounds?  Nobody disputes the governor’s authority in this area. The only imperative is that good judgment be exercised.

The governor can make appointments. Why not address the massive backlog of executive appointments? There are hundreds of boards and commissions that have vacancies. Again, nobody disputes the governor’s ability to make such appointments (no confirmation required) the only requirement is that qualified people be appointed.

The governor has the bully pulpit. Why not use the office to draw attention to some worthy issue or cause. It doesn’t have to be profound. In fact, it might be better to be ridiculously practical. In this regard, Kurt Vonnegut once gave a two sentence commencement address:  “I urge you all to floss your teeth and use sunscreen. I’ve thought a lot about it and this is the best advice I can give you.”



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Assemblyman Michael Benjamin permalink
    October 31, 2010 6:01 PM

    Governor Paterson is not punishing the Legislature by calling a special session. The session is required to approve the expenditure of the federal education aid that came in September. He’s doing the legislative leaders a favor by limiting the agenda. I know that the Assembly is being pressed to pass a “hydrofracking” moratorium bill. Plus, Members have bills they’d like to see passed before the year ends. I don’t think the public wants a lame-duck Legislature passing any more bills.

    The Governor has used the office as a bully pulpit. He has enacted historic MWBE reforms. He has made the case for fiscal restraint and a pared down state government. Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s grand vision set the state on the path to fiscal ruin. Governor Paterson was the first governor who didn’t want to the new Rockefeller; he was determined to plow a new, responsible fiscal path for posterity. That’s the credit he’s due.

    • November 1, 2010 2:34 AM

      Dear Assembly Member Benjamin:

      Everyone who knows you holds you in high regard as one of the most thoughtful, conscientious and hard working members of the Assembly.

      For that reason, we hate to reply to your affirmative post with a note that borders on the intemperate, but we are compelled to speak the truth.

      And the truth is that Governor Paterson has been a disaster, and your attempt to defend him is, well, ridiculous.

      We know what you’re endeavoring to do, which is give your friend some credit and dignity as he concludes his public service.

      And we would be fully on board with that were it not for his almost uninterrupted run of ill-conceived comments and actions.

      He hires a chief diversity officer who is the close friend of his top aide. Then he abruptly rescinds the action when it becomes clear that she isn’t even a resident of New York.

      He fires your former college, Pete Grannis, as DEC commissioner because a memo is released that warns about the effect of budget cutbacks.

      He accuses your leader, Sheldon Silver, of “collusion” in the AEG matter when it is clear that he (Paterson) was the one working with Senate leaders to advance an unqualified bidder and that Silver was trying to stop it.

      He calls a special session of the Legislature against the wishes of his staff, the legislative leaders and the next governor.

      To be clear about this point, what Paterson is now doing is wrong. No lame duck governor has initiated significant action, such as calling a legislative session after an election has been held,to choose a new governor and a new legislature.

      No, Mr. B, Governor Paterson isn’t doing anyone a favor.



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