By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
I taught a class in politics at City College some years ago. Fortunately, I never had to explain what is going on at all levels of government these days, especially in Albany. From grade school we are instructed that in a democracy, the majority rules. In other words, if you get the most votes, you get to govern. In Albany that is not a given.
There is no need to rehash what happened in the Presidential election. As we know, the candidate with the most votes was not declared the winner.
Notwithstanding Donald Trump’s insistence that he was cheated out of millions of votes, he actually lost the popular vote. But in Presidential elections, the winner is the one who gets a majority of the Electoral College vote, which Trump did. That is a fact, whether we like it or not.
However, consider the curious case of Albany. Like at the federal level, there is a chief executive in the person of the governor. And like Congress, there is a bi-cameral Legislature, the State Assembly and the State Senate. And that is where the intrigue begins. After the November elections, the Assembly continues to be dominated by the Democratic Party occupying over two thirds of the seats. In the Senate, Democrats also outnumber Republicans, albeit very narrowly by 32 to 31. Governor Cuomo is also a Democrat. So one would think that this could be the golden age for Democrats and their policies…right? Nope.
In Washington D.C., the Republican Party has the majority in both houses of Congress and of course the new President is Republican. They are making the most of their control of government. If you thought that the Democrats in Albany were doing the same you would be very mistaken.
It is no secret that Governor Cuomo wanted to keep the Senate in the hands of the Republican Party for his own reasons. He is aided firstly by Brooklyn Democratic Senator Simcha Felder who broke ranks with his Democratic colleagues to elect a Republican as the leader of the Senate.
To further complicate matters, eight other Democratic Senators led by Bronx Senator Jeff Klein have formed their own “Independent Caucus” which has become the enabler of the Republican Party control in the Senate. The result of these machinations is that the Democrats who should lead the Senate by dint of the voters’ preferences do not. And the usually-loquacious Andrew Cuomo remains uncharacteristically silent as all this occurs. So much for “majority rules.”
For Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper residents, this is more than just an interesting view of the oddities of Albany politics. This has real consequences. By virtue of the shift in control of the Senate from the largely Democratic New York City to the Republican suburbs, New York City will likely lose millions of dollars in state aid for municipal services and especially for our local schools.
And as for reforming our rent regulation laws, don’t hold your breath. Are you concerned that Major Capital Improvements (MCI’s) unfairly increase rents permanently, long after the owner has recouped his investment? Forget about changing that too. The Republican Senate rejects those measures as surely as the sun sets in the west.
The pity is that with a rightfully elected Democratic majority in the Senate those long standing issues and others would be addressed. So these Albany maneuverings have real consequences.
As for motives? Of course you will hear high minded explanations as to why some Democrats from New York City would hand over control of the Senate to the other party. But when you peel back that onion to figure out the layers of motivation, you will find that it is inevitably political or personal self-interest and power.
Any way you slice it, that onion leaves a bad taste in your mouth.