Help Wanted: Legislators Needed to Fix Broken Capital

Can’t wait for someone to challenge Shelly Silver, Deborah Glick, Hakeem Jeffries, Joan Millman and other members of the Albany crew that didn’t allow congestion pricing to even come up for a vote? Neither can the New York Times.

In a scathing editorial published on Saturday, the Times issued a call for change in the state capital, appealing for more Paul Newells to step forward and run against incumbent pols.

Any New Yorker who is not furious at the mention of their state
capital, Albany, has not been paying attention. There are the sex
scandals that forced one governor out of office and prompted his
replacement to confess more details of his own indiscretions than
anyone wanted to hear. The state comptroller quit last year after
pleading guilty to misusing public assets. This week an Assembly member
was convicted of corruption and faces up to a decade in jail. Angry yet?

The place needs a thorough cleaning — a giant broom to sweep out the
rascals, starting with the State Legislature. We are not in favor of
term limits, but the idea gains currency when most people who get
elected in New York State keep their seats until they retire, die or go
to jail.

The ballot box is still the best form of term limits.
So, here is how to change Albany: find and support somebody daring and
thick-skinned enough to run against the local legislator.

We are
not saying it will be easy. The system is rigged against challengers.
It takes money, mostly for lawyers to fight lawyers whose job it is to
keep other candidates off ballots. It takes time, energy and patience
to fight a system so patently anti-democratic.

One example: the
petitions to get on the ballot this year are probably due in early
June, but the New York State Board of Elections has not yet posted the
official schedule. For the record, state leaders appoint the members of
that board.

Still, it is possible to run. And right now is the
time to find challengers, especially for members of the Assembly.
Albany’s stagnation is at its worst there. The cowardly failure of
Democrats — especially Speaker Sheldon Silver — to allow a vote on New
York City’s congestion-pricing plan was the latest example of why a
change, in both parties’ delegations, is essential.

At least
the competition is intense on the State Senate side where Democrats are
challenging the Republicans’ slim majority. Switching to a Democratic
majority would at least demote Senate Leader Joseph Bruno, who is under
federal investigation and a grand master of Albany’s business as usual.
But the Assembly has 150 mostly unchallenged seats, and since this is
technically a democracy, each race deserves more than one candidate.

Manhattan, where the Democratic primary is the election, it is time to
challenge even the most established members of the Legislature — like
Assemblyman Richard Gottfried on the West Side or Assemblywoman Deborah
Glick. And it is far past time for a serious reformer to challenge Mr.
Silver in his Chinatown base.

New York, of course, needs more
than a few new faces. The state goes begging for challengers who are
genuinely committed to changing Albany’s corrupt ways. Candidates need
to promise a real reform of the scandalous campaign finance system,
including public financing. And they should pledge their support for a
nonpartisan commission to draw legislative districts.

Yorkers deserve to be mad as hell about Albany, and their best revenge
is at the ballot box. All they need now is to find decent candidates.

Streetsbloggers — know any "decent candidates" you’d like to see take a run at an incumbent next fall?