As senators in Albany ramp up their criticisms of Governor David Paterson for forcing them to assemble, however fleetingly, in a series of extraordinary sessions and then threatening to dock their pay, it's worth pointing out that Paterson himself was wary of precisely this scenario.
In a long sit-down interview this month, I asked the governor if it wasn't already time for him to start being more forcefully involved with the senators, who by then had made it clear they were going to be unable to resolve their crisis by themselves.
"This is what I'm trying to get people to understand about my role," said Paterson. "If I give into the fears and anxieties of people about the process, and go and do something like that, I'll be the one on the front page, not some of the people whose reputations are being crucified right now."
I asked him whether, if his intervention achieved something, he couldn't be on the front page in a good way.
"If there is a silver lining around this dark cloud, that has even been dark by Albany standards, it is that we might come in and see necessary regulation that we were not assured was going to get on the floor this year get on the floor," he said. "And if that happens, the Senate could vote up or down, maybe a couple of bills might lose—that's a novel thing, a real democracy! I never hear the reformers talking about that. Put the legislation on the floor. Just the fact that it shows a real democracy could persuade the Assembly to address legislation more differently and then we would start to suddenly see some real action occur. And then I think New Yorkers would feel a lot better about the way Albany is being managed.
"So what I'm doing is saying to the leaders—there are 51 bills that are going to sunset that aren't even controversial. Why can't you all stipulate to the fact that you'll pass the bills. Go in. You can pass that legislation. You don't necessarily need leaders to put bills on the floor. I think there would be a process that would be different than anything I have seen in 24 years here. And, I think we would see it in this session, which I wouldn't compare to phoenix rising out of the ashes, but maybe a little bit of integrity rising out of the ashes."