February 13, 2007

Assemblywoman Lifton ducks, dodges

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton has a guest column on the comptroller's appointment in this morning's Ithaca Journal. Unfortunately, the most interesting part of the letter is what it doesn't contain: any discussion of the process the legislature, and especially the Assembly followed.

She talks about how this was all conducted legally, and she talks about how happy she is with the candidate the Assembly chose. She blames Governor Spitzer for having "overstepped constitutional bounds in early January when he inserted himself into the decision about who should be the new comptroller", despite the Legislature's having little criticism of the panel at the time it was created. She doesn't talk about:

  • The expressions of public outrage by Assembly members when it became clear that the panel hadn't found any of their members qualified to be comptroller.

  • The private party caucus where Assembly Democrats - and only Democrats - chose the next comptroller and applauded him. (The entire legislature is supposed to make that decision, but it was only a ratification of the already-made decision.)

  • The booing of Assemblyman Ball for challenging the broken process. (Update: WHCU reports that Lifton thinks "It was grandstanding.")

What we do get is a sunny story about the separation of powers - an issue that didn't seem to matter when the deal about selecting candidates was originally struck - and rhetoric about the importance of her oath of office:

When I am sworn into office after each election, I take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and New York State Constitution.

That's an oath that I take very seriously.

Here again, she doesn't talk about the other oath that legislators take in practice - the oath to support their leadership, and to simultaneously pretend that there's no such oath. "Three men in a room" gives the leadership huge powers to reward and punish both legislators and their districts, and Lifton seems very content to follow Sheldon Silver wherever he wants to go.

It's time for change in the Legislature. There seems to be precisely one member willing to stand up and challenge the leadership. Since our Assembly and Senate members don't feel comfortable raising a challenge, it's up to the voters. The leadership is a powerful and centralized operation, while the voters only exercise their power every two years, for all kinds of reasons. It's going to be hard to change this system, but just complaining about state government hasn't improved much of anything.

Posted by simon at February 13, 2007 8:35 AM in ,
Note on photos