Paterson transition: The little things…

I keep noticing that the media delights in labeling David Paterson as “affable.” I think that’s going to be his official nickname; I say, good, if it keeps them from noticing that he’s never been known to be all that passive. (BTW, his full press conference today is here.)

Channel 9’s reports from Albany on Wednesday were a hoot especially when they kept referring to Joe Bruno as “now the lieutenant governor.” I can already tell that this is going to be a hair-tearing exercise to inform the clueless media that he is the Senate Majority Leader and only performs the duties of lieutenant governor. He is not the Lieutenant Governor. Okay?

Then I sat and watched John DeFrancisco refer to Paterson as “the acting governor.” He was referring to Paterson in the future tense, looking forward to the next three years, so I hope it was just a slip of the tongue and not some weird twisty GOPspeak of the sort that I thought DeFrancisco was well above.

This evening, I watched all Onondaga County legislators (except Barclay) lined up on a panel on Channel 9 to be interviewed about their views on Paterson. All of them were enthusiastic, as you might expect, that one of their own was coming in. (And I’ll bet Valesky is glad that nobody insisted on a lengthy statement on Spitzer the last couple days… he was probably hiding under his bed!) Al Stirpe, however, made a truly clueless statement when he said (not an exact quote) that Eliot Spitzer was “created” by the people of New York as a response to some sort of imaginary impression that Albany was “bad.” (You know, when after all Albany really is good and pure). Make no mistake, there’s still a wall of denial and disdain for public opinion lurking in the Capitol.

However (in a spirit of conciliation) I’ll say that this past week brought home that I’ve learned a lot about Albany and politics in general since starting this blog project several years ago. I won’t back down from the contention that legislative reform is critically necessary for the state’s future — and Paterson, I believe, really knows that — and I still have a copy of the Brennan Center Report on my hard drive. But it’s also true that the rawly political, unofficial power structures that exist in Albany sometimes do work in a positive way that protects what needs to be protected. Those structures are based on relationships that we as outsiders sometimes have trouble trusting (and sometimes, very rightly so). We saw the political law of the jungle in action this week… and I don’t think it was necessarily a foregone conclusion that Spitzer would go at the appropriate time. But many different political institutions and players instinctively reacted to a shock in a visceral way that I think ultimately defended, like white blood cells, the business of the state – the business we sent these people there to do. The high stakes were understood by all. The people of New York also participated in this short but painful process.

I have read comments from those outside our state who wonder at how New York managed to get through this crisis in such short order, when the rest of America is struggling with a great deal of corruption at the very top and nobody can do anything to get it away from partisanship and resolve it. Simply put it’s because New Yorkers knew precisely why they elected Spitzer and why they no longer wanted him. And the structures of the government here may be badly off-kilter and in need of reform, but maybe they are not crumbling structures and are worth saving.

Why we had an Eliot Spitzer for Governor is a good question to explore, but I most emphatically do not agree with Al Stirpe’s thoughtless and cynical dismissal of what ordinary New Yorkers feel and know. Eliot Spitzer is gone. His mandate goes on. We elected Spitzer because we do have the highest aspirations here in New York. For real. That’s who we are in the Empire State, and Assemblyman Stirpe had better never forget it. Then again, he’s a near-freshman and has a lot to learn, too. Maybe he should start by studying our state motto – which has rarely been more relevant than it was this week.

7 thoughts on “Paterson transition: The little things…

  1. Patrick

    “I can already tell that this is going to be a hair-tearing exercise to inform the clueless media that he is the Senate Majority Leader and only performs the duties of lieutenant governor. He is not the Lieutenant Governor. Okay?”

    What my concern is that as that he will have the power to perform the duties of the lieutenant Governor Meaning he will have the power to perform the duties of the Governor when the Governor is out of state if from what I have read and heard is right.

    Does that mean that the soon to be Governor Paterson will be stuck in NYS unable to leave for the fear that Bruno will be able to make appointments similar to what President Bush has done in the past when the houses go on vacation? In other words I’m curious as to what powers the duties Bruno will have when the Governor is out of state???

    Personally I never knew much about Peterson but I just watched the press conference that he gave which was just under 20 minutes and I liked his style, humor and more importantly that he does sound like someone who will be able to work through party lines. Lets hope this is a fresh start and that they can work together to bring NY to where it should be. FWIW he also mentioned Buffalo and upstate. I suppose time will tell.

  2. Robinia

    Paterson came right out and layed it on the line what he thought about “the reason we sent Eliot Spitzer to Albany”– albeit with a light touch. The lead quote in the NYTimes version of the story of his first press conference sums it all up. When asked by a reporter if he had ever patronized a prostitute, he answered “Only the lobbyists.”

    Affable, yes, a seious reformer, absolutely. He was the key Senate Sponsor on the Clean Money/Clean Elections bill, after all. And he thinks lobbyists are prostitutes.

    Never imagine David Paterson doesn’t mean something because he uses humor to talk about it– I think the humor is often his way of being gentle while bringing up something huge.

  3. Patrick

    (the last thing he says is very, very ironic!)

    Very ironic Ellen. He comes off as a very personable and down to earth person in both of the interviews that I watched today. My first impression is that I like him and see good things ahead perhaps. Perhaps meaning it will depend on how the other side decides to work with him. So far they have said they have no problems working with him. But, But, bu….

    One thing I have learned during all of this is to pay as much attention on the running mate for the Governors office as I do when it comes to the Presidential election. Shame on me I suppose ;(

  4. honkcronk

    I hope this “warm” and “down to earth” new governor will redo some of the budget plans that Spitzer had. I see the Senate already decided to vote against closing two of the prisons on the list. I think that leaves two more on the list to close to save money.

    I want the $125 million dollars for environmental land purchases restored back to where it is supposed to be — for the use of NY’s environment.

    Every governor thinks this fund can just slide into any area that is in the red — in this case, Spitzer’s plan is to slide it into the general fund to cover the budget gap. This budget plan is also Paterson’s unless he decides to make some changes, which he can do after Monday.

    Where is Paterson on the environment in NY? Is he a preservationist? Does he get his income from real estate like Spitzer?

    Spitzer was good when it came to lawsuits and laws on environmental matters. He was not so good about keeping the money where it belongs.

  5. Ellen Post author

    I don’t know where Paterson’s income is derived from. I do know that he has spoken out strongly in the past against the use of eminent domain. He had called for a statewide moratorium. I would guess that had something to do with revitalization efforts in Harlem. Harlem has been very much transformed in recent years.

    This article mentions he is thought to be “largely an unknown quantity in real estate circles.”

    We have to get away from seeing Upstate as “property to be redeveloped” and more as “community that needs to be strengthened” – and that means jobs, of which property redevelopment is a part but not the only part.

    Speaking of jobs, anyone catch Paterson’s interesting comments on the unemployment rates of the blind and deaf? Most people only talk about the disabled in terms of rights and accessibility… he zeroes in on the jobs. Kind of unusual.

  6. JS

    Just guessing, and not hearing Paterson’s comments about unemployment rates for the blind and deaf…as part of that community, he is likely acutely aware of what they really want, to work and live just like anybody.

    I’m sure that community’s had more than its share of empathetic politicians, rolling through for photo ops and a pat on the back, without providing any meaningful help.

    Kind of like most any politician and the community these days.

Comments are closed.