Tag Archives: Rochester

A More Dysfunctional Legislature

14 Feb

Erie County having its own problems, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to local news throughout the state. Perusing Rochester Turning today, I learned that the Republican majority in the Monroe County Legislature had a “public hearing” in connection with its selection of an individual to replace the outgoing, longtime public defender there. Naturally, people wanted to attend the public hearing and find out how this person would be selected.

Instead, they got a lesson in unconstitutional, antidemocratic, police-state type tactics that call for immediate and prompt reaction. For instance, there were protesters outside, so the legislature literally removed one row of spectator seats and reduced the max capacity to 75. Several people who were sitting in the gallery and minding their own business – including a state Assemblyman – were escorted out of the chambers.

The hubbub? The Republican-controlled county legislature has made the process political, rather than based on merit. The Rochester D&C wrote in early January:

The process has zero credibility, and everyone involved knows it. The Monroe County Bar Association, which spearheaded a successful vetting process for public defender more than 30 years ago, doesn’t want any part of the current one. The bar currently is asking judges chosen to participate to decline, citing ethics rulings that say it might be improper for judges to take part.

One can debate the impropriety of having judges on the panel. But the fact is, no one asked to serve on this bogus committee should accede.

All the signs at this point are this appointment will be a political one, and that skill, qualifications, experience — all the things that made outgoing officeholder Edward Nowak so admired — will be made subservient to partisan concerns.

Starting fresh is the way to go. [County Executive Maggie] Brooks should work with the bar and the legal community to devise a community selection process that as nearly as possible eliminates politics.

Read about it here, here, here, and a roundup of the leg meeting here.

To channel Peggy Noonan for a sec, our politics are not (right now) as poisonous as those in Rochester. Savor.