For years, I have been speaking of the “IPP” or “Incumbent Protection Plan.” Let’s face it: When the people who serve in the New York State Legislature get into office, they take whatever actions are necessary to stay there.
I know many of these people and despite what I am writing here, I like them. They are fun, they are filled with ideas and I would drink a club soda with them any time. But the truth is that the whole process has become a self-serving mess. The voters know it and these are very dangerous times for politicians.
Everywhere I go, people tell me that it is time to throw them out and start over. In nearby Massachusetts, a Republican who was given no chance ended up in the U.S. Senate. I just read that Sen. Chuck Schumer is getting nervous as he watches his numbers fall. If our legislators were smart, they would hold their collective finger to the wind and sense the danger. For example, they would disclose the names of every person who hired them in their outside jobs. This they refuse to do. Top leaders have told me that it is unfair, for example, to make a woman who hires a legislator for legal advice disclose that she had gone to him seeking a divorce. Fine, make up your mind. Are you a legislator or are you a lawyer? “Well,” the legislators would say, “If you don’t want us accepting outside work, you have to give us a pay raise.” Not really. Many people would work hard and without conflicts for the nearly $100,000 salary when all the perks are added up.
Of course, Gov. David Paterson knows what the people want and he wants to give it to them. The Legislature passed a tepid series of rules reforms that just don’t go far enough. The message to Paterson was that they would override a gubernatorial veto. Well, I hope he does veto this piece of garbage. The battle lines would be drawn. There would be our David with a slingshot and the legislative Goliath. If the Legislature does the right thing and passes a meaningful bill, they will forever be known as the group that put the “d” back in democracy.
I want to see all politicians come forward. Now is the time to stand up and be counted and not in a muted voice, but loudly and clearly. The more Paterson goes after the Legislature, the higher his poll numbers grow. They should. Let’s hope he inherits the wind.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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