2007-02-16 / Editorial/Opinion

Legislators As Puppets, Only Term Limits Will Do

The two elected officials who represent Rockaway in the State Assembly come with puppet's strings attached, and those strings are not controlled by the electorate, but by Sheldon Silver and Joseph Bruno, party leaders who control with an iron hand the Assembly and the Senate respectively. The two men have long been the poster boys for why we need term limits for our state legislators as we have for our city officials. Those two men have made our state legislature the laughing stock of the nation and arguably the most dysfunctional state government in the nation. Now, they have overstepped that role to become even more dangerous to democracy. In early February, Democrat Silver, reacting to a deal made with our new Governor to allow a non-partisan commission recommend candidates for the open slot of Comptroller, said, "I am encouraged that we have come together to endorse this overall plan, which will insure that a new comptroller will be chosen fairly, deliberately and in full view of the public. This agreement demonstrates a renewed commitment to cooperation, trust and openness on the part of the governor and members of the legislature" Nice words, but basically disingenuous. When it came right down to it and when none of Silver's colleagues were chosen for the slot by the commission, then he ordered his Democratic underlings such as Audrey Pheffer and Michelle Titus to vote for Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli, who is basically unqualified to do the job. They did as Silver ordered, just as they always do. It is a sad fact that in all of her years in the Assembly, Pheffer has never once bucked the leadership. Titus, relatively new to the game is heading in the same direction. Malcolm Smith, our State Senator, being the leader of the minority party in the Senate was in a different position, and he voted against the DiNapoli appointment. The hold that both Silver and Bruno have on their bodies is so strong (Silver decides who gets the extra money and prime committee appointments) that the Minority Caucus voted for Silver's choice even though there were minority candidates recommended by the commission. Governor Eliot Spitzer reacted by saying, "We have just witnessed an insider's game of self-dealing that unfortunately confirms every New Yorker's worst fear and image of all that goes on in the Legislature of this state." He is right. This could only happen when our legislators are so sure of reelection that they can openly show disdain for the will of the people they are supposed to serve. That will only change with term limits. Allow Assemblymembers to serve two four-year terms and Senators to serve two six-year terms and then throw them out of office. That is the only way the people can reclaim their control over those who they elect.

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