The Pataki Appointee Hang-Over
Though most New Yorkers will breathe a collective sigh of relief once George Pataki's last moving box has been hauled from the Executive Mansion, the truth is that this Governor has been provided a complete pass by the Republican-controlled State Senate, which will allow him to continue to exert influence over State policy for years to come.
On Thursday evening, the night before a special session of the State Senate during which many legislators were focused on important bills like Timothy's Law, I received a pile of information about 48 new Pataki nominations to positions on important governing boards which regulate New York's environment, business, health and other issues.
If the Governor had faith in these nominees ability to withstand scrutiny, he would not need to push through midnight appointments, bestowing on many of his political cronies and friends, positions many should not hold.
I voted against every one of these 48 nominees. I hated to do this because it is likely some were highly qualified and could improve their respective agencies/boards; many of these agencies/boards are little more than a skeleton of their former self thanks to Governor Pataki. However, because the Senate Democrats were not given ample time to consider these nominees, it would have been irresponsible to rubber-stamp them—once approved they no longer serve just at the pleasure of the Governor, and are guaranteed tenures that will keep them in place well into the next decade.
The Senate Republicans did not feel that same sense of responsibility, and all 48 nominations were confirmed.
Pataki's appointments and the Senate Republicans rubber-stamp of them have gotten a great deal of scrutiny from New York media and watchdog groups. Despite this, during what is likely to be the final session of the State Senate during his tenure, Pataki and Senate Republicans installed 48 more midnight appointments.
Who controls these public authority boards, agencies, etc. is very important to the everyday life of New Yorkers. It is through them a Governor's agenda is enacted.
Just months ago I raised a fuss about Joseph Strasberg, another Pataki re-appointment. His nomination came before the Senate Standing Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development, on which I am the ranking Democrat. As the New York Times documented in June, Strasberg, who is a registered lobbyist for landlords and developers, was renominated by Pataki to be the chairman of the State of New York Mortgage Agency. The Mortgage Agency makes low-interest loans available to prospective homeowners and also does business with developers, allowing them to offer advantageous loans and obtain favorable mortgage insurance rates for their projects. I personally wrote the Governor requesting he withdraw Strasberg's nomination. The Governor ignored my advice and Strasberg was approved; he will continue to hold these two positions of conflicting interest well into the next Governor's term.
New Yorkers are being left saddled with Pataki appointees. To ensure this, he has enabled a switcheroo inside his administration for his friends, moving allies whose terms are set to expire in the next year or so, to different positions with terms that will expire well beyond 2010.
Given all that's been wrong in Albany for the last 12 years under his administration, it's truly sad that even as New Yorker's prepare to celebrate the election of a new Governor, they will feel the Pataki hang-over for years to come.
Liz Krueger is the State Senator for New York's 26th District.