Friday, July 17, 2009

Editorial comment:

Reward for betrayal

There’s no reason why the battle against Mr. Espada has to be fought mano a mano when all of New York can gang up on him.

How do you resolve a political crisis that costs taxpayers millions of dollars and makes New York State the laughingstock of the nation?

Simple. Reward the man whose personal ambition and greed kicked the whole crisis off.

Riverdale’s “own” state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., has managed to make a career out of behaving badly and then extorting personal benefits for returning to a semblance of virtue.

Mr. Espada told New York Magazine that he had “fun” planning the debacle that shut down the state Senate and government for more than a month. Over that time, he, state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and a small handful of others reveled in the attention their unconscionable behavior won them. When the manufactured crisis was over and the undistinguished legislator was faced with the consequences — Yonkers barely saved from the brink of bankruptcy, New York City poorer for a month without authorization to change its own tax laws, who knows how many other municipalities around the state in a similar position and no movement on a lot of good legislation already delayed by decades of reticent Republican management — what did he say?

“We needed this exchange. It happened in public. It happened and it took too long, and I’m sorry.”

Who is this man kidding?

And, more importantly, how does he get away with it, always coming out ahead?

Nobody currently in state government has the will and cunning to stand up to Mr. Espada one on one. But there’s no reason why the battle against Mr. Espada has to be fought mano a mano when all of New York can gang up on him.

People in the 33rd state Senate district, from Riverdale to Mount Hope, should get together now and start grooming alternative candidates from which they can choose a representative to Albany in 2010. While it may be true that the Democratic donkey would make a better representative of the public weal than Mr. Espada, it’s better to be on the safe side and pick a capable person who can make a reasonable case for themselves.

Of course, there’s always the possibility his various ethical lapses will land him in enough trouble that he is either forced to resign or gets thrown out of office. One notable campaign finance law violation led to felony guilty pleas by close aides, while Mr. Espada squeaked by unscathed, except for his reputation. The guilty are now back on Mr. Espada’s payroll.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson is currently investigating Mr. Espada on several fronts, but don’t get your hopes up. As he’s shown in the past, Mr. Espada is gifted in his ability to skate near the edge of illegality without sliding over.

New Yorkers, thankfully, may have a more permanent solution to the Senate crisis on the far horizon. In 2011, after the 2010 census results are in, the state’s legislative districts will be redrawn. It’s an opportunity to end years of the gerrymandering that is chiefly to blame for the decades of upstate Republican control of the state Senate that has led to a starvation diet for the city. A fair count should get New York City the representation it deserves, and put an end — at least for a while — to a divide so close as to allow Mr. Espada to work his magic.

Unfortunately, if the 33rd District doesn’t come together in looking for an alternative to Mr. Espada, he may, as majority leader of the Senate, be able to draw himself a district so stacked with supporters that he will remain a blot on state government for many years to come.

Now there’s an incentive for change.

This is part of the July 16, 2009 online edition of The Riverdale Press.
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