Dinner with a senator

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders


Several months ago during one of the late night pauses in the state budget deliberations, I had the occasion to have dinner in Albany with one of the rising stars of the New York State Senate, our own Brad Hoylman.

The meal itself was not all that memorable, although it did consist of my favorite Italian food and it was pretty darn good. But what I remember most about that evening was not the pasta or pastry for dessert but rather the intelligence, humility and the down to earth common sense of the fellow sitting across the table, Senator Brad Hoylman.

Unlike our mayor, Brad arrived pretty close to the scheduled time and without an entourage. But nonetheless he apologized for being just a few minutes late because work in the Senate was running a bit long that evening and he wasn’t exactly sure of the street that our bistro was located on.

I had actually known Brad a little bit prior to his 2012 election to the State Senate. Brad was a vice president of the prestigious New York City Partnership which is a progressive organization of business and civic leaders. I also knew of Brad’s work in local politics from the Lower West Side of Manhattan.

The reviews on Brad had always been good but I never really spent much time with him. We immediately launched into a multi-dimensional conversation involving the need for political reforms, tenant protections, education, health matters and family values. I was so impressed with Brad’s grasp and understanding of a wide range of important topics and his many good ideas about how to make government more accountable to voters and work better.Perhaps because he has only been in the State Senate for three years he has not had time to become jaded. But I suspect that if Brad serves in the Senate for 23 years, he will be the same positive thinking progressive elected official who cares more about good public policy than the personal enrichment either of money or power that some in politics seem to lust after. Brad seems to be cut from a different cloth. A fabric which is made of durable and sterner stuff.

I say all this because just last week yet another the Majority Leader of the Senate was forced to resign his position after having been charged with corruption and official misconduct. The fourth such leader in less than ten years to be brought low by a federal prosecutor. And this after the Assembly speaker also resigned earlier this year for similar reasons. I know that this repetition of one politician after another being hauled into court is causing many people to despair of our political institutions and those elected to serve in it.

Brad Hoylman is a shining example of what is still good about our political system. And he is not alone. The Town & Village community has been blessed with outstanding bi-partisan public servants over the years. Members of Congress including John Lindsay, Ed Koch, Bill Green and now Carolyn Maloney have served us faithfully and with great effectiveness. State Senators Roy Goodman, Liz Krueger and Tom Duane have fought for us tooth and nail. The same can be said of former City Council Members Miriam Friedlander and Andrew Eristoff. Our current representatives in government including Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and Peter Cooper’s own great Councilmember Dan Garodnick are among the best in the business. Brad joins that rich tradition of public officials who are dedicated to improving the life of the community that they are elected to serve. You will never, I dare say, see their names associated with scandal and personal aggrandizement at the public’s expense.

So two hours later when dinner was over, my stomach was satisfied and my spirit was buoyed. With Brad Hoylman in the State Senate I feel good about the prospects of our state government. There will always be rogues in government, like other professions… but fortunately there will always be the Hoylmans to remind us again why our democracy continues to succeed.

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