Joseph Bruno and Sheldon Silver: Two Incompetents In Albany

It is hardly a secret that Albany is home to some of the most egregious political hacks north of the Beltway, a gray and grim place where small-time hucksters thrive and pressing issues-like, say, budget deadlines-are evaded, avoided and otherwise treated with contempt. All you need to know about your state government is contained in the following phrase: New York has not passed a budget on time in two decades.

While city residents in particular have gotten used to bad government in the state capital (the city is regularly cheated and ill used by the upstate-dominated State Senate), recent events suggest that matters have gotten even worse. Albany datelines bring news of sex scandals, corruption, Clinton-like ethics and grubby deal-making. Who is to blame? Certainly Governor George Pataki, suffering from third-term malaise, must bear some of the responsibility. But most of it can be placed on the shoulders of the State Legislature’s two so-called leaders, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of the Lower East Side and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno of Troy. Mr. Silver is a Democrat; Mr. Bruno is a Republican. The blame is bipartisan.

Mr. Silver has been the head of the Assembly’s Democrats for more than a decade. His most significant, and certainly most costly, action during those years was his approval of a Republican-sponsored bill which abolished the city’s commuter tax. That bit of politically driven “leadership” has cost the city about $500 million a year since 2000. Mr. Silver is supposed to be the city’s protector against the anti-city policies of hayseed Republicans. Nice work, Mr. Speaker.

More recently, the Speaker and his wife spent a nice vacation in Las Vegas (what, Niagara Falls isn’t good enough?) at a discount rate, which was subsidized by a company that wants to build casinos in New York. Mr. Silver saw nothing wrong with this. But then again, Mr. Silver has a tendency to avert his eyes-one of his top aides pleaded guilty last year to sexual-misconduct charges. Mr. Silver did nothing when previous complaints had been raised about the aide. What’s more, another Democrat, Adam Clayton Powell IV, is enmeshed in a sexual scandal. Another powerful Assembly Democrat, Clarence Norman, had been indicted on corruption charges. Still another, Gloria Davis, quit the Assembly after she admitted guilt in a bribery case. Mr. Silver, suffice to say, has not given voice to his outrage.

As for Mr. Bruno, he, too, is an example of the get-along, go-along culture that has bogged down actual public service in the state capital. He assured us that his colleague from the Bronx, Guy Velella, was a great man unfairly under attack by politically motivated prosecutors, and Mr. Bruno helped raise money for his colleague’s legal bills. But then Mr. Velella entered a guilty plea, admitting to taking kickbacks. Mr. Bruno hasn’t apologized-but then again, neither has Mr. Velella. And why should they? To apologize is to feel shame, and what’s clear is that Albany is home to some of the most shameless “public servants” in the nation.

It’s time for these men to go.

Indian Point: Terrorist Target

As we head into a summer, reports of varying reliability have warned of an elevated risk of terrorism on American shores. Not that any new risk is needed to argue for an immediate shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear plant, a disaster waiting to happen 35 miles from midtown Manhattan. In a case of money being wisely spent, Westchester County has commissioned a $385,000 study on how to go about shutting down Indian Point. It’s a shame that things have gotten to this point; New York’s elected officials, particularly Governor George Pataki, have done scandalously little to oppose the plant’s continued operation.

The study will explore options such as what it would cost to purchase or condemn Indian Point and what effect, if any, the plant’s closing would have on utility bills. (Indications are that several non-nuclear power plants now being built would be able to replace all the power currently generated by Indian Point.) “This is by far the most comprehensive study of a nuclear power plant and the effect of closing it,” County Executive Andrew Spano told reporters. “We want to determine the best way to shut the plant down.”

The New Orleans–based, $10 billion Entergy Corporation, which owns Indian Point, continues to fight any reasonable solution; one wonders if its executives would feel that way if they lived in New York, downwind of a plant with the worst safety record of any plant in the country and a criminally inadequate evacuation plan.

A terrorist attack at Indian Point would make Sept. 11 look like a minor tragedy and delight jihadists the world over. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission study estimated that a meltdown would kill 46,000 people immediately-not to mention the lives lost and economic calamity that would result from a full evacuation of New York City. (Imagine what the F.D.R. and West Side Highway would look like if a terrorist flew a plane into Indian Point.) If George W. Bush were truly serious about fighting terrorism and protecting Americans, he would understand that shutting down Indian Point is a matter of national security.

Ban Car Alarms

With crime continuing to drop–it’s time to do something about a legal but thoroughly offensive public nuisance. We’re talking, of course, about car alarms. Nothing would do more to improve the peace and quiet of New York’s neighborhoods than to ban these ear-piercing alarms. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg prepares to run for re-election, it’s hard to imagine a more potent appeal to voters than a proposal to free the city from the aural tyranny of these bleating devices.

Council Speaker Gifford Miller has called for a federal ban on car alarms, but the Speaker lost his nerve when it came to the idea of a more localized New York City ban. Car manufacturers told Mr. Miller that deactivating a car alarm was virtually impossible-and the Speaker apparently bought Detroit’s argument.

One local group working toward a ban, Transportation Alternatives, claims that the noise of a car alarm “boosts stress hormones and has been linked to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal illnesses, psychological problems and unhealthy fetal development.” No New Yorker who has ever been subject to a wailing alarm outside his or her window would disagree.