Opinion: Planet Albany

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.

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4 thoughts on “Opinion: Planet Albany

  1. I’m mystified how Simcha Felder always escapes mention. Felder is a State Senator from District 17 (Borough Park Brooklyn). He runs as a Democrat. But he votes like a Republican. A scorecard put together by the Conservative Party of New York gives Felder a 90 out of 100 for 2016. Here it is: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56be1e80c6fc08f66e160e73/t/57fd490b15d5db06ee9efb86/1476217101141/2016+Senate+Ratings.pdf

    Felder’s is 90 is as high as any Republican score. Compare to Hoylman at 35 and Kreuger at 40. Felder is actually endorsed by the Conservative Party.

    He is the one Democrat who voted for John Flanagan (R) to be major leader. That vote gave Flanagan the major leader role. If you care about Rent Stabilization, you should care about Felder’s vote because the majority leader controls what comes out of committee for a vote on the Senate floor.

    There are several bills in committee dealing with Vacancy Increase Allowances that could have an impact here, but they will never see the light of day because they’ll never get out of committee thanks to Flanagan being majority leader thanks to Felder’s vote.

    The Democrats’ problem is compounded because of other defections like Jeff Klein, David Carlucci, Diane Savino, Tony Avella and David Valesky who have been joined by Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara & Jose Paralta. They make up the so-called Independent Democratic Conference most of whom are rated 80-85 by the NYS Conservative Party and voted for Jeff Klein as majority leader instead of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, further ensuring Democratic defeat for majority leader.

    So far as I can see, many of the regular Democrats in the Senate are leaning to the right. Perhaps because of the weakness the Democratic State Party has shown.

    Democrats who act and vote like Republicans should run as Republicans. And I just wonder why the NYS Democratic Party doesn’t call out all this defections much more vigorously, put up strong opposition and try to put an effective end to these turncoat Democrats.

      • And..???

        Vacancy Increase Allowances threaten the viability of Rent Stabilization. Once every landlord starts renting to students to gain from the churn, legal rents can go up very quickly. The legal rent can go up so high, even if still under Rent Stabilization, the landlord can eventually jack up rents above market rates whenever he sees some advantage.

        I’ve read the bills in committee. Most of them don’t have a chance because they’re so one-sided and extreme. Seem more for political show.

        Would love to see a graduated rate proposal that makes sense.

        But in the meantime, who cares? With Republicans in control, nothing reasonable is going to get out of committee either.

        There is no legislative possibility for now. The first step in the solution has to be political.

        • The entire Democratic party in NYS is corrupt. The only hope for NYS is to get rid of every single one of them, including Brad Hoylman!

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