Maverick Takes The Floor, And Grabs The Limelight, In NYS Assembly
Gregory Ball, the newly elected Republican Assemblyman from the Hudson Valley, is probably not a household name -- even in the communities he represents.
But watch out, Shelly, 'cause if what we're hearing from Mr. Ball is any indication of things to come, the outspoken renegade is poised to shake things up the the frozen nether regions of the capital city.
You go, Greg! Keep on making those speeches from the Assembly floor, making headlines in the press, and joining your fellow bloggers in getting out the word. [Click HERE to read Greg's blogposts.]
We need more outspoken legislators -- even where we may not agree with some of their fundamental positions on the issues -- willing to get to their feet and speak their minds.
Yes, remind your colleagues that they are dysfunctional. Let them boo and jeer. No, theirs doesn't stink -- to them!
Mr. Ball goes to Albany, and speaks of the people's frustration over too many years of stagnation, and too few voices willing to sound off against the damaging politics of three men in a room.
Greg Ball represents a breath of fresh air in the Assembly. Is there a lone Democrat in the State Senate willing to be as bold?
We hope that Greg's forthright, in-your-face brand of representation -- self-indulgent as it may at times not only appear, but be -- becomes a regular part of the debate in Albany.
"Debate." Now there's a word we haven't heard in the legislative chambers for a long, long time!
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Scolding Peers, Legislator Draws Notice
By Nicholas Confessore
ALBANY, Feb. 9 — It is normally hard to imagine ways by which Republicans in the State Assembly, the chamber’s oppressed and powerless minority, could become well known. Being attacked in broad daylight might do it. Or being indicted for bribery. Or saving small children from a burning house.
But this week, Gregory R. Ball, 29, a freshman member of the Assembly, found a different path.
On Wednesday, as nearly all the Assembly’s Democrats voted to defy Gov. Eliot Spitzer and make one of their own, Thomas P. DiNapoli, the new state comptroller, Mr. Ball rose to condemn their decision in what some Albany veterans considered highly impolite terms.
“This is the most dysfunctional Legislature in the United States of America,” Mr. Ball told his colleagues. His caustic attack set off a rising chorus of boos and hisses that peaked with several of them shouting at him to resign.
Mr. Ball, who represents parts of Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester Counties, says he has no plans to resign. In fact, he said, his brief bid to be the least popular man in the Assembly may be the most popular thing he has done yet in his short political career.
“It was not easy getting up as the new guy and standing up to tell a group of people what they don’t want to hear,” said Mr. Ball, an Air Force Academy graduate with the wide build of a football player and the smooth delivery of a politician twice his age. “But the response has been overwhelming.”
It started, he said, when he left the chamber on Wednesday. “I ran into a security guard and a janitor,” Mr. Ball recalled. “They both looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Good job, Greg Ball.’ ”
Soon enough, reporters began calling — dozens and dozens of them, he said. Excerpts from the floor speech popped up on numerous political blogs. He also began to receive the first of hundreds of e-mail messages and phone calls, all of them supportive. Even Governor Spitzer himself called Mr. Ball to say hello.
By Friday morning, Mr. Ball’s new Web site, assemblymangball.com, had received so many visits that its server crashed. By Friday afternoon, a YouTube video of his remarks was ranked 80th among news videos. Meanwhile, the e-mail messages and calls kept coming.
“I got an e-mail from a guy named Cliff in Austin, Texas — a former New Yorker,” Mr. Ball said.
“There are a lot of people who have moved out of the state because property taxes are so high.”
Like any budding young politician, Mr. Ball took advantage of the publicity. His office sent out its own e-mail messages, dispatching links to the video clip and a news release bragging about Mr. Ball’s press coverage. “Greg Ball mentioned in New York Times, New York Post, The Journal News, Poughkeepsie Journal, and 186 other media outlets,” the release read.
Mr. Ball and most other Assembly Republicans voted for Martha E. Stark, one of three finalists chosen by a panel of former comptrollers to replace Alan G. Hevesi, who resigned last year.
But others were displeased. Keith L. T. Wright, a Harlem assemblyman and a Democrat, said that if Mr. Ball believed the Legislature to be so dysfunctional, he should step down.
“He should probably get to know what he’s talking about before he opens his mouth,” Mr. Wright said. “He just seemed to paint a broad brush on a legislative body that he probably ran very hard and spent a lot of money to get into.”
Mr. Ball did not dispute the part about running hard for his seat. He knocked on 10,000 doors and wore out six pairs of shoes, he said, before his September primary victory over a long-serving Republican incumbent — a rare feat in the clubby world of state politics.
When he arrived at the Capitol, he said, he found apathy and inaction.
“The guys in the Legislature are on another planet,” Mr. Ball said. “I think they’re serving some funky Kool-Aid in the members’ lounge. They honestly believe they are not part of the problem.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company