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Can we ever fix Albany?

Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson doesn't hold back in his indictment of our state legislature in today's edition of the paper. He goes for the jugular in this piece, comparing the cast of characters in Albany to the fabled mafia crew of television's Sopranos.

Consider what passes for governance here:

Legalized bribery and extortion, which is what the campaign system amounts to. Buying loyalty with high-priced, do-nothing committee assignments. Running a front-operation that meets in the legislative chamber while all of the decisions are made in the back room.

[...]

But even when the needed reforms — campaign finance limits, independent redistricting, etc. — are apparent, how do you change a system when the ones who write the laws are the ones who benefit most from it?

Of course, the answer, as always, is us. It's all about us paying attention and demanding change. Watson calls for a C-SPAN of the state legislature. If they're being watched all the time, maybe they will start to behave. Or that's the idea.

What do you think? Are we capable of paying attention en masse, because that's what it would take, it seems? A few gadflies here and there will only get swatted down. Or are we too complacent, too ready to buy into the aggressive campaigning of specialty groups who spur an uproar every time their funding is threatened? Or too complacent, too willing to chew on the fodder of smallish political victories passed off as significant achievements—think of Chris Lee recently championing how he saved local libraries from the big bad government? Or should we even be blaming ourselves?

While you brood over that, I would recommend checking out Watson's article.

Gabor Deutsch
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No, I dont believe we can ever fix Albany.
Dave Meyer
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The only way to have a shot at fixing Albany is to COMPLETELY turn over the membership of the Senate and the Assembly. In other words, "throw the bums out". Each and every one!! If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem and you deserve to be judged on those merits. The likelihood of that happening is infinitesimal, but the thought of it makes me smile. Some will say, "oh no...you can't vote out so an so. He or she is a good person...just caught in the system". But that's the point. The "system" (whatever it is) is why that body is so dysfunctional. Unless the membership was completely turned over - 100%, I don't think there's ever any possibility of change. It would be the coolest thing ever if a grass roots effort could make this happen, but as I said...the chances of it happening are slim and none and slim just left town. For the last several years, I have purposely voted against every incumbent in state elections (sort of putting my money where my mouth is) but since the incumbents in these parts are republicans and they have gerrymandered the districts such that any opposing party has no realistic chance, nothing ever changes. Steve Hawley...you're on notice :)
Adama Brown
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It doesn't take a complete turnover of all the legislators--that simply couldn't happen anyway. What it would take is the same thing reform always takes: a few dedicated people willing to do the work, and who aren't afraid of the temporary unpopularity with some of their collegues that being a reformer would bring. I spent a lot of time and effort last fall trying to get someone elected who I think would have been able to do just that--unfortunately inertia, incumbency, and the fact that the other guy outspent her ten to one eventually took the day. The problem is what David mentions--people who keep blindly voting for the incumbent because they feel like they "know" them, or that he's a "good guy." My State Senator and Assemblyman are living examples of the worst of that: neither has done anything for the district in the time they've been in office... a staggering 34 years in the case of my State Senator. There's some people already in office that are pushing change too--look at the rules reform that was one of the first items brought in by the new State Senate majority. But even among the party of change, way too many of the Democrats have fossilized into their seats, and don't really care about any meaningful alteration of the state government. That does indeed demand fresh blood.
Dave Meyer
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OK...I may have overstated the case a bit, but I appreciate Adama's point that people (at least it seems that way in these parts) just can't bring themselves to vote against an incumbent. Hell, the democrats couldn't even find anyone to run against Steve Hawley in the last election! Are you telling me that's healthy for a system that EVERYONE agrees is dysfunctional? Is Steve doing that great a job for our district? Is he part of the movement for change in Albany? It seems like the only time you see these guys is when they have the opportunity to present a check for a "member item" (more of your tax $$ well spent) and they can get their photo in the paper. Given the fiscal situation of our state, it would seem to me that the LAST thing a member should be doing is handing out checks. Just look at how the new democratic majority in the state senate settled into the groove. Sen Stachowski from Erie county should have been a strong candidate for the majority leadership position, but in some back door deal, this Malcolm Smith guy from downstate ends up in the leadership position and Stachowski settles for some deputy position and oh by the way, a couple of plum "committee assignments" that will net him an extra $20,000 or so in "stipends". It's not one party or the other...it's the "system" and it has to change. All I can say is God bless Andrew Stengel and the committee he's heading to reform Albany. He's got a big job on his hands and he has to work in the henhouse with the foxes. Good luck with that.
Gabor Deutsch
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Again I say no, "we" cannot fix Albany and no,"they" will not be forced to fix things.
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