Tuesday, September 7, 2010

REAL Facts About REAL Albany Reform!

"Albany is dysfunctional and needs reform! Now!"

You certainly won't get any argument from Senator Montgomery! Throughout her career she has worked against the stranglehold of dysfunction engineered by  the Republican party over the last 70 years.

In 2004  the NYU Brennan Center for Social Justice published a damning assessment of the state of the Legislature, and over half of its recommendations have been acted on by the Senate in the last 2 years. This is despite the attempts by the Republican party to turn back the clock by disrupting the process last year and hypocritically refusing to enact further reforms, all the while cheering on so-called reform advocates who have their own agendas.

There has been more positive reform in the New York Senate in the last 18 months than in the previous 72 years. Those are the facts.

The Way Things Were...
It was a complete and total mess. Nothing was able to be voted on unless the Republican Majority Leader allowed it on the floor. Committees were toothless. The only power a Democratic Senator had in that system was negotiation and the persuasion of a principled argument. Even during this difficult time Senator Montgomery was able to effectively represent the people of her District through her drive and her unimpeachable character. It was during this difficult period that Senator Montgomery was first called the Conscience of the Senate.

...What It Cost...
It cost us all plenty, both upstate and in New York City. Billions of dollars that should have been used downstate were redirected to benefit connected upstate political patrons. Unregulated suburban sprawl bankrupted and emptied upstate cities while requiring billions from New York State for infrastructure investments which primarily benefited real estate developers. Upstate economies were ruined by a profound lack of vision and a neglect of productive development; farms and manufacturing were sent out of state and replaced with a new type of farm--prisons and  "youth camps" filled with the poor of greater New York City swept up in the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws and inequitable judicial practices. And the legislature was twisted into the knot that is still being untied.

...And What Still Needs Doing
The ethics reforms passed by the Senate have been vetoed by the Governor, and the Republicans who initially voted for the package flip-flopped away from reform when it came time to overcome that veto. Hopefully the new governor will see the value in these bills when they are re-introduced in the next session.

Redistricting reform is long overdue! Senator Montgomery has long said that if there had been a fair and independent process for drawing legislative districts, the Democrats would have controlled the Senate by the year 2000. (FYI, the majority party redraws the lines under the current system, and while upstate counties seem to have some geographic coherence, the Republican Majority went to absurd lengths to cobble together districts to enhance their elections chances.) The formation of a redistricting process that ensures fairness and accountability, and that does not devolve into some level of "shadow government" is as complicated as it is necessary. Senator Montgomery shares the concerns the Brennan Center voiced in an April letter to Mayor Koch (which has never gotten a public response) concerning the difficulties in getting this exactly right, and she is committed to ensuring its development.

Anyone can sign a flawed paper and be called a hero. But it's years of experience, commitment, sacrifice, and outstanding ethics that make a real hero, like Senator Velmanette Montgomery.