Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No incumbents for Rochester paper

Our editorial board's recommendation that no majority party incumbents be re-elected to the state Legislature created the usual buzz, particularly among the political class. Last night I bumped into Kingston Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, one of those incumbents (and someone who has expressed in many venues in no uncertain terms his distaste for the paper). I believe he termed Sunday's editorial, "more mindless drivel from the Freeman." (I wasn't taking notes.)

We've been pretty much out on a limb among papers in New York, most of which have been equally as critical of the dysfunctional state Legislature, but not to the point where they've urged a housecleaning.

But this morning The Associated Press sent along Saturday's editorial from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which has been a notable exception.

Read on:

"... In good conscience, we cannot support any of the incumbents because of their failure to consistently push for radical change in Albany. They are: Sens. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Jim Alesi, R-Perinton, Joe Robach, R-Greece, George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Assemblypersons Joe Errigo, R-Conesus, Susan John, D-Rochester, Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit, David Gantt, D-Rochester, Bill Reilich, R-Greece, David Koon, D-Perinton, Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia.

"Two incumbents, Robach and Koon, at least moved our reform meter, but not far enough.

"Among the challengers, only two, Democrats Paloma Capanna and David Nachbar, both candidates for the state Senate, persuaded us that they'd bring the kind of fresh, critical thinking needed to remake Albany. The Democrat and Chronicle thusiastically endorses them.

"New York has too long struggled with the heaviest tax burden in the nation, significant loss of jobs and population. Now it's being hit with the worst economic crisis since the recession of the 1970s. The Empire State faces a $26 billion state budget deficit over the next several years, and a meltdown on Wall Street, from which 20 percent of the state's revenues are derived.

"And incredibly, leaders like Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are hemming and hawing about whether deeper cuts in the state budget are really needed despite persuasive warnings from Gov. Paterson. Citizens can neither afford this kind of dawdling by legislative leaders nor rank-and-file lawmakers.

"Such lack of regard for the best interests of taxpayers was at the core of this page's decision four years ago in refusing to endorse any candidate for the New York Legislature for the first time in the newspaper's then 171-year history.

"Our unprecedented stand climaxed a yearlong 'Challenging Albany' campaign that included gathering more than 2,000 'Fed up' coupons from readers and shipping them to legislative leaders. This effort, combined with other public outcries from around the state such as a stinging report by the Brennan Center for Justice, which quantitatively concluded that New York had the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation, got lawmakers' attention. But obviously, it was only long enough to take off
the heat.

"After adopting a few changes that made the legislative process more responsive to citizens, lawmakers have been reverting to many of their old habits. Secrecy and sheer arrogance, for example. ...

"Given the power of incumbency in New York, where state lawmakers have a 98 percent re-election rate, the odds are high that all 11 of this region's incumbents will return to their Albany desks. They should know, though, that newcomers such as Capanna and Nachbar are at their heels. And so are growing legions of angry New Yorkers."
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