Or Was That 2 1/2 Times?
New York State Senator Dean Skelos was reported to be all smiles as he emerged from the Republican conference in Albany last night. And why not? He had just been elected by the caucus as the presumptive (pending the ongoing recounts in three races) Majority Leader of the new (old?) New York State Senate for, as he put it, the "third time in two years." [That would, of course, include the Espada/Monserrate/Skelos coup of 2009, also known, as homage to the late Leslie Nielson, as Naked Ambition 2 1/2.]
We, at The Community Alliance, wish Dean Skelos, who also happens to represent the 9th SD here on Long Island, all the luck in the world as he assumes one of the top three most powerful posts in the State. [The other two are Sanitary District Commissioners.] Actually, we wish New Yorkers, and, in particular, our fellow Long Islanders all the luck in the world, in the hope that Senator Skelos can dislodge the partisan stalemate, both in his chamber and in Shelly Silver's Assembly, and begin to turn decades of dysfunction into a renaissance for the people of New York.
While few would argue (none with a straight face) that Dean Skelos is not partisan -- a loyal GOPer to the core (and there's nothing wrong with party loyalty, provided that it neither blinds nor binds when it comes to representing the will of the constituency) -- at 62 (though still relatively young in political circles), and having served in Albany going on 31 years, one has to believe that the Senator's latest ascension to the pinnacle of power is more about creating a lasting legacy rather than merely amassing personal political garnishment.
True, for most of those thirty years (closer to forty, in fact), the Republicans ruled the roost in the State Senate, demonstrating almost as little ability to lead, to reform, to move forward with an aggressive and progressive agenda as have the hapless, listless, gutless Democrats over that past two years.
Still, those were different times, socially, fiscally, politically. [We won't dare mention that those times, when the pot was deemed bottomless, and the party, on both sides of the aisle, often spilled out onto State Street and rolled down to Jack's Oyster House, created, in many respects, the less solvent, more divisive times we have today.]
In Albany, for a seasoned veteran seized with knowledge, integrity, true grit and an iron will -- not to mention a knack for playing the game like no other -- opportunity abounds over the course of the next two years (barring another coup attempt) to truly rebuild New York, from the mouth of the Hudson on down. [We leave Western NY to Carl Paladino and his baseball bat. ;-)].
Imagine a legacy that includes (dare we think it, let alone say it?) property tax relief beyond a 2% cap and out of one pocket into the other STAR rebates. A legacy that, at long last, ushers in real education reform, the likes of which forever changes not only the inequitable State Aid formulae and an asphyxiating pension system, but also a landscape that squanders dollars by the hundreds of millions, carving out more school districts than there are villages and towns. Imagine a legacy that, harsh realities of economics notwithstanding, gives moment to the words of Senator Skelos, to wit, "cutting spending, no new taxes and fees and creating jobs... are going to be our priorities going forward."
Dean Skelos has shown us that he has what it takes, and what Albany needs, to pull New York out of the abyss. And while he has blocked progressive measures such as same-sex marriage, and voted "No" on the special district consolidation bill and the school pesticide ban, he was instrumental in gaining passage of some of NY's landmark legislation, including The Sex Offender Registration Act (Megan's Law), the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC), and the Health Research Science Law, which established a Pesticide Registry within New York State.
He has also brought home the bacon, by the pound, for Long Island, particularly in the areas of aid to education and community development. Frown upon earmarks and member items as we do, we cannot help but break a smile when grants from the Senator's office improve the lot of community locally.
Newsday once reported that Dean Skelos could be the guy to save the local GOP. By our reckoning, Senator Skelos, should he choose to do so, could very well turn out to be the guy who saves New York -- if only from itself.