Albany is gray in every way. Everything is negotiated in the margins, written in invisible ink or sketched in shades of gray. Having spent several years living upstate I can tell you also that Albany is quite literally black and white, like the movie Pleasantville. No, seriously. As soon as you get off route 87 and enter downtown Albany, everything loses pigment. Especially the politicians.
Perhaps this is why I always picture the legislature in Albany as an old black-and-white comedy where the characters are mostly just caricatures of themselves—running around aimlessly beating one another about the heads with Billy clubs and slipping on banana peels. I have this image of workers carrying a large piece of glass through the chamber where it will inevitably be broken by a jalopy driven backwards by a hapless constable. The scene ends, of course, with the governor taking a pie to the face.
This week did nothing to discourage this image.
If you think about what has transpired since Eliot Spitzer was first elected until now, it’s hard not to laugh. This is New York, the center of the universe and home to the most absurd, ineffective and immature government in all the land. But amidst the chaos this week there was light—a profound sliver of light that shone through the windows of both houses with amazing clarity thanks to a little prodding from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The “New NY Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act” cleared both the Assembly and the Senate before the entire government degenerated into its typical lunacy.
The act essentially provides a blueprint for real people like you and me to have the ability to dissolve or consolidate certain layers of government. Passing this act also gives the good people of New York the impression that our politicians actually have a pulse and blood flowing to their brains. Doing their level best to dispel this notion were Charles Fuschillo, Kemp Hannon, Craig Johnson, Owen Johnson, Kenneth LaValle, Carl Marcellino and Dean Skelos, who all inexplicably voted against the consolidation bill: a bill that would eliminate the many layers of unnecessary government and crippling taxes that crush Long Islanders every year.
These “public servants” voted against these districts for the simple reason that each one of these districts/taxing authorities/agencies employs people who carry political literature, gather signatures and “get out the vote.” Whatever. I’m past it. I’m focused now on one thing: The language of this bill— “Elector initiated dissolution plan shall mean a written document that contains terms and information regarding the dissolution of a local government entity, a majority of whose electors have voted to dissolve”—is music to my ears.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. Maybe we do need two counties, 12 towns, 95 villages, 196 hamlets, 30 sewage districts, 48 water districts, 157 fire departments, 45 police departments and a partridge in a pear tree. Don’t forget about all of the other associations, agencies and corporations that were spawned to keep track of the layers of government and help us all interact with them. The Long Island Association, the Hauppauge Industrial Association, the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Long Island Partnership, the Regional Planning Board, the Route 110 Redevelopment Corporation, six different industrial development agencies, several economic development agencies and multiple planning boards, zoning boards, code enforcement agencies, libraries, business improvement districts and more. Oh, and LIPA, too. Don’t forget about LIPA.
Nearly 44 percent of Long Islanders are employed in the government, non-profit, educational or social services sectors. That’s almost half of the available workforce that exists to support, service and/or govern the rest of us. Almost 17 percent of us work directly for government entities! It’s time to change that, and now that Albany has given us the tools to begin changing the system we need to get busy doing so.