Tag Archives: unicam


17 Mar

In a small sign that there’s hope for New York yet, slasher Hiram Monserrate was defeated last night in a landslide by Assemblyman Jose Peralta. Monserrate was recently expelled from the New York State Senate in connection with his slashing-related conviction, lost his court battle to reverse the expulsion, and has now lost his electoral bid to return to the Senate.

Being rid of Monserrate is a small step towards eliminating the stench of corruption, failure, and insanity from the New York State Senate. There’s still a long way to go.

But ultimately, we have no need for a state senate whatsoever. It performs absolutely no useful function of any kind. It is a full-employment plan for hacks and thieves, ill-serving their constituents and the state.

A nonpartisan, unicameral, democratically elected and democratically operated (small “d”) legislature is the best way to return sanity and representative democracy to a legislative entity that no longer serves the people.

How’m I Doin?

5 Mar

The NY Times:

Since 1982, 2,958 elections have been held for individual Senate and Assembly seats, and only 39 times have incumbents lost, according to records kept by Mr. Horner’s group. In 2008, more than half of the 212 senators and Assembly members won with more than 80 percent of the vote; 57 ran unopposed. In the Senate, the average tenure is nearly 14 years.

Seriously, we’re Cuba with free speech. Thankfully, New York’s elder statesman – its Mensch-in-Chief – in on the case.

Koch is now 85 years old and more or less out of politics, but the New York Times reported yesterday that hizzoner is pretty pissed off at what’s become of Albany. Koch teamed up with a couple of good government groups to issue a letter pledging a genuine coup in Albany – and not just the kind that saw a couple of corrupt opportunists turn the tables.

Dear New Yorker,

For many years, the people of the State of New York have borne the burden of an ineffective legislature and a paralyzed state government. In 2004 the Brennan Institute of Justice found New York’s legislature to be the most dysfunctional in the United States, and a 2006 follow up showed little improvement. In 2009, the system collapsed completely, with the state senate unable to function at all for over a month.

Our state government, including the legislature, is an embarrassment. Their collective inability to deal responsibly with substantive issues has led to the deterioration of New York State’s economy, and the accumulation of billions of dollars in deficits. This impacts the delivery of services, and impairs the quality of life our citizens should enjoy.

The situation is coming to a boil. One lawmaker was quoted in today’s New York Times as saying, “I ache for the return of dysfunction. Dysfunction had its problems, but at least dysfunction has function in its title. We are not functioning at all.”

Now is the time to deal with our sad state of affairs in Albany. Across the state, New Yorkers of all parties and ideologies share a sense of distress over the legislature’s behavior. The 2010 election presents a unique opportunity for us to convert the public sentiment for fundamental reform into citizen action.

The key must be the defeat of those incumbents, regardless of party, who are responsible for this odious situation, and the election of new candidates, committed to a reform agenda, to take their place. It is possible that the defeat of a few will turn the others into reformers. This is not an ideological crusade by the left or the right. Our goal is the honest and efficient government of the State of New York, with legislators motivated by the public interest.

The elections this fall are particularly important because the next legislature will deal with the redistricting of New York State, which will take place after the 2010 decennial census is completed. It is essential that an independent non-partisan commission be selected to undertake the redistricting process for the next decade. The demarcation of senate, assembly and congressional districts must not be a tool for the protection of incumbents and the exclusion of challengers. We must avoid the stagnation that past redistricting efforts have consciously generated.

We are inviting leading civic and advocacy organizations and individuals to meet on Friday, March 12, at 10 a.m. in the offices of Bryan Cave LLP, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, to discuss how we and other like-minded people can best work together to change the political environment and reform state government. The weakening condition of our state requires broad citizen participation to effect change. Your participation would strengthen this effort.

All the best,

Dick Dadey: Citizens Union
Ed Koch: Former Mayor of New York City
Henry Stern: 
New York Civic

I think that the people of the state of New York are sufficiently tired, outraged, and beaten up. I think that this may be the year to start changing things. Locally, we have people who have been in elected office since the early 70s. We have one state Senator who spends campaign money on Jamaican junkets presumably to open up the Ocho Rios – Buffalo tchotchke market. These guys get re-elected over and over again, and election to Albany is almost always a job for life.

Albany is broken, and it’s nice to have credible and reasonable people and groups call for drastic change.

Unicameral Legislature for New York

19 Jul

The Nebraska Legislature has been unicameral since before WWII.  It is also non-partisan.  When a person runs for a legislative seat, his or her party affiliation is not appended to his or her name.  They run on their own merits.

Furthermore, their legislative work is accomplished in 60 or 90 day-long sessions, depending on whether it’s an even or odd-numbered year.  That’s it.

This morning, Dave Debo interviewed Charlyne Berens, author of “Power to the People: Nebraska’s unicameral legislature”.  Regrettably, I didn’t hear the whole interview, but I managed to call in and ask a few questions.  Ms. Berens confirmed that Nebraska legislators don’t take the job to get rich – they earn a meager $12,000 per year and although they do address constituent concerns year-round, they still need to go out and earn a proper living, just like the people they represent.

They are limited to serving two four-year terms.  Voting coalitions are formed issue by issue, as each question presented may affect different parts of the state differently.  There is no majority or minority whip or leadership, and the speaker is elected by all members via secret ballot.

If Nebraska can do it, there’s no reason why a state even as populous as New York couldn’t do it.

We can’t afford two legislative bodies anymore.  We can’t afford to pay them all over $100,000 anymore.  We can’t afford to have them up in Albany all that much, because seldom does any good come from it.  We can’t afford to support their cushy staffs, their cars and drivers, their perks and chairmanships, or their ineptitude.  We can’t afford to have all those legislators and all of their ancillary costs sitting there doing little else but rubber-stamping the decisions made by three men in a room.  We can’t afford to have them lobbied by their former colleagues.  We can’t afford their ingrained partisan fealty to various and sundry special interests.  We can’t afford pointless coups.

Yes, it’s time to adopt the Nebraska legislative model in New York and make our legislature smaller, leaner, cheaper, non-partisan, and efficient.

(Photo by Flickr user durundal).