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Dear Assembly

October 9, 2014

Can we do this? Would you allow us to offer an objective and realistic assessment without getting your back up? Can we offer some constructive criticism that won’t be instantly rejected on the false assumption that we’re Republicans or some other perceived adversary?

Oh, we know the pitfalls here.  We can’t criticize a member, no matter how dinosaur-like that member might be.

We can’t do anything that impugns the integrity of the institution even though dozens of scandals and a failure to respond to those scandals has undermined public confidence.

We can’t be too pointed in our criticism. That’s for members talking to other members in conference.

Nor can we take shots at the leader, who, over the long term and under often difficult circumstances, has been a good leader.

OK, so generically and gently, and with respect to the institution, here’s the situation:

You, collectively, haven’t had a new idea in a long time. In addition, you simply aren’t independent anymore.

On this last point, who can deny that the Assembly has ceded decision making in entire policy areas to the administration?

It used to be the case that the Assembly would have an agenda in an election year. It used to be the case that members, with the support of leadership, would stake out policy positions. They’d do reports. They’d hold hearings. And when election time came around, members would stand with other members and say: “A vote for us is a vote for this progressive policy initiative.”

But if a citizen goes to the Assembly Press Office’s web page today and looks up the news releases for the last six months,  they won’t find much of anything except a handful of releases on bill signings.

No specific criticism here. We’re not saying it’s a bad press office. Nor are we saying the leadership is anything but competent and steady.

What we are saying is that the Assembly hasn’t proposed any new ideas or any policy plans or any kind of vision for the next four years in New York.

Yes, we do indeed get the part about the Assembly being a good partner with the Governor. That’s the way it should be.

But that doesn’t mean the Assembly can’t have an agenda of its own. Think of the great utility of having such a vision. Wouldn’t it only help the institution? Cynically if you must – wouldn’t it help divert attention from the scandals?

In this regard, we know more indictments are coming, right? Why wouldn’t the institution have an agenda that it could talk about it? Why wouldn’t it want to talk about that agenda instead being forced to address yet another ethical transgression by a member?

Knowing that PB is preparing additional cases, that makes sense, no?

And isn’t it simply the right thing to do given the fact that everyone joined the Assembly to make a difference?

What? Is it hard to decide on which new ideas to propose? Well, here’s an idea. Why not ask some of the newer and younger members for their input?

There’s Robert Rodriguez. He’s a motivated guy.

There’s Addie Russell. She’s got guts and actually believes in something.

There’s Michaelle Solages. Ask her about multi-cultural curriculums.

And there’s an exciting new guy named Michael Blake, who will be joining the conference in January. Look him up. He was in the White House last year and really does have a new perspective.

With more than 100 members, the Assembly conference ought to be, hands down, the most creative force in state government.

But dear Assembly Member and dear Assembly Leaders, is it?

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