Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Look what a little love can do for Albany

Newsday Editorial Lawrence Levy

Maybe some people have to see the "dark side" before they are prepared to cooperate??? A "mistake" to Larry...could be a "strategy for Eliot" to soften up the opposition??? andy

"At least for one brief, shining moment, the inaugural week's love was back in New York's capital.Of course, the political cuddling may not last, especially with powerful parties fighting crucial budget cuts that now may be harder to sell with the state's temporary surplus growing by the moment. But yesterday Albany was a place less of cynicism than optimism. And it restored a bit of hope that Gov. Eliot Spitzer has regained the graceful stride of leadership he showed in his first successful weeks - leadership essential to separating Albany from the phrase "the nation's most dysfunctional" state government."This is functional Albany," Ken Adams, head of the state's largest business group, the Business Council, declared at a press conference with frequent adversary Denis Hughes, state leader of the AFL-CIO. "This is effective government."Beaming at this bedazzling endorsement were Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick), combatants not only in negotiations over a 2007-08 budget but for supremacy in shaping state policy for years to come.

What possibly could have prompted such platitudes from a business leader who routinely and correctly criticizes Albany? What could have inspired Bruno and Silver - both targeted by Spitzer for at least irrelevancy - to wax on about the quality of his leadership?There's nothing like a good backroom deal to get politicians smiling at each other. This time it was a deal to bring long-sought reforms to the workers' compensation system.This time, instead of the usual "three men in a room" behind closed doors, it was five: Hughes and Adams, representing their sides, with Spitzer, Bruno and Silver. But unless there's something in the ever-fearful fine print - and despite the leaders' continued appetite for secrecy - they deserve their kudos. The deal would dramatically improve the nation's most expensive and least effective program for compensating injured employees and protecting their companies from lawsuits.

What's most significant here is that, wherever the talks are taking place, the leaders are communicating productively again after weeks of ill will that followed Spitzer's needless attacks on Silver, Bruno and their allies.If you remember, Spitzer decided that he didn't want to wait for 2008 to win the three seats needed for Democrats to take over the State Senate. He created an opening by hiring Republican incumbent Mike Balboni - he also tried to hire other GOP senators - and jumped into the campaign as if the future of the free world depended on his winning.Around the same time, Spitzer also inappropriately meddled in the selection of a state comptroller, an official whose job, in part, is to oversee the governor's agencies. The state constitution gave the power to fill the vacancy to the legislature. Albeit clumsily, that's what the legislature did in selecting one of its own, the upstanding Tom DiNapoli, prompting a weeklong tirade of personal attacks by Spitzer.The result: Spitzer's approval ratings went up and his chances of getting anything of significance done went down. So he backed off, shifted his famous "steamroller" to neutral, if not off, and suddenly Albany - and Spitzer - are accomplishing again.Add the landmark deals cut last month to reform ethics and budgeting, and you can make a case that Spitzer's earlier bragging - that he has done more in his first term than any other governor - already might be true.But the session could fall apart fast and soon over Medi-caid, school aid and property taxes - enormously controversial issues to which all sides, Republican and Democrat, executive and legislative, bring different ideas, needs and histories. I hope Spitzer has learned something this past month about how and when to pick a fight, at least against opponents who can fight back on almost equal footing. The state can't succeed unless he has."

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