Editorial: New 'sheriff' can't clean up NY alone
Federal prosecutor Preet Bharara is suddenly the high sheriff of Albany and City Hall. At the crack of daylight yesterday, he took down another politician, Democratic Assemb. Eric Stevenson of the Bronx, who's accused of pocketing nearly $20,000 in cash to grease the launch of at least two adult day-care centers.
"A show-me-the-money culture in Albany is alive and well," Bharara noted. After his news conference, another Bronx Democratic assemblyman, Nelson Castro, an informant in the case who reportedly has been wearing an undercover wire for three years, resigned in a plea deal.
Bharara deserves a standing ovation. A few days ago, his office arrested Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith and Republican City Councilman Daniel Halloran III, both of Queens, and four others in a bribery scheme.
While New York's culture of corruption has never been subtle, it now seems out of control. Bharara can't do it alone.
The options? Perhaps Gov. Andrew Cuomo could push through a package of public corruption reforms to slow the sleaze. The Assembly speaker and Senate majority leaders could police their own hallways. And an inspector general who audits expenses -- or a review panel that might have asked Stevenson why he introduced a bill as pointless as the one for which he is accused of taking a bribe -- might help. Not all elected officials are crooks or maladjusted, but there's plenty of ethical decay around.
Stevenson seems to confirm that.
On a wiretap he mentions former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who was recently released from prison after doing time on a corruption conviction: "If half the people up here in Albany was ever caught for what they do . . . they . . . would probably be in the same place as Hevesi."
This disgrace can't continue. We deserve honest answers about the rot within our political culture -- and we deserve a round of reform like we've never seen before.
New Yorkers are stuck with a crumbling infrastructure, bad schools, a comatose upstate economy and politicians preoccupied with scheming. One U.S. attorney can't fix everything. It's time for all of us to clean up the mess.