The real power vacuum in Albany
Can you name your state senator or assemblyman? Sadly, many of us can't. But a growing number of New Yorkers have a very good reason.
They don't have one.
After last week's conviction of Brooklyn Assemb. William Boyland Jr. on charges of soliciting bribes and extortion, there are 12 districts statewide -- including two in the Senate -- without a representative in Albany, half in New York City. As a result, almost 1.8 million New Yorkers don't have an elected official personally advocating for them in Albany.
Seven of the Assembly seats are vacant because members were elected to other offices. Besides Boyland, Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson was tossed out in January after being found guilty of taking bribes. And upstate Assemb. Dennis Gabryszak quit the same month following allegations of sexual harassment.
Two other Assembly seats were vacated because of -- what else? -- corruption scandals. New Jersey thinks it rules on government corruption? Ha!
NYC Public Advocate Letitia James is among those asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to hold a special election to fill the seats, but he is holding out.
"There is nothing more central to our democracy than the right to choose our representatives," James said recently on the steps of City Hall. "For the sake of good government and fair representation for all, we must have special elections . . . and we must do it now."
Makes sense, right?
Not so fast.
First of all, special elections are costly. They're usually sleepy affairs with low voter participation -- allowing party bosses to handpick candidates.
"These special elections aren't really elections," Dick Dadey, excutive director of Citizens Union, a good-government group, said in a report. "They're coronations by party leaders. This Tammany Hall-style selection process undermines our democratic practice here in New York."
Without special elections, voters will have to wait for primaries in September and Election Day in November.
Maybe someday we can get the corruption out of state politics, make certain we all get fair representation in Albany and make good government a priority.
But that day sure isn't March 12, 2014.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.