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Paterson says Ravitch right man for the job

Gov. David Paterson introduced his appointment of former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor Thursday afternoon as the move was being challenged in court by Republicans and the stalemate in the state Senate continued.

“Time again, time again, Richard Ravitch has been called upon to serve in moments of crisis and difficulty, and I’ve called on him to serve again,” the governor said.

Paterson noted that Ravitch, in addition to chairing the MTA and helping the city deal with the fiscal crisis of 1975, was a negotiator during the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.

“If he could deal with the owners and the unions and the egos in that contest, I’m sure he’ll be right at home here in Albany,” the governor said, referring to the chaos in the state Senate.

Paterson said he made the appointment to help clear up the line of succession should he die or become incapacitated. With no lieutenant governor in place, the president of the Senate would be next in line, but state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and rogue Democratic state Sen. Pedro Espada of the Bronx, who is aligning himself with Republicans, both claim to be the Senate president.

“Had the Senate solved their dilemma... this would not have been a necessary action,” the governor said.

Referring to the Senate, Paterson said the stalemate “has shown that they don’t adjust as other legislative bodies have, to a tie.”

The governor had announced his tapping of Ravitch for the lieutenant governor’s post at a 5:01 p.m. Wednesday address that was televised statewide.

Paterson said Ravitch signed the oath of office at 8:40 p.m. Wednesday night and was accepted by the secretary of state at 11 p.m.

A Nassau County judge signed an injunction at 12:48 a.m. Thursday, preventing Ravitch from being sworn in, but Paterson said that action was moot because the oath was sworn before the ruling. The governor also said Nassau County was not the correct jurisdiction to file the court action because it involved a state office and a suit should have been filed in Albany.

The appelate division in Albany is currently hearing the Republican’s case claiming Paterson’s appointment is unconstitutional.

Paterson said he believed the appointment was legal despite state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s opinion to the contrary and the GOP lawsuit.

“It’s not unconstitutional because there’s nothing in the constitution that says it can’t be done,” he said.

During the Thursday news conference, Ravitch, 76, said he wanted to make clear he will never be a candidate for elected office and he did not agree to get involved in anyfund-raising in exchange for the appointment.

“I did it solely to help the governor in what I know is his very sincere and serious effort to make sure that the state of New York gets through the enormity of this economic crisis that this country and this state faces.”

It was unclear how much Ravitch’s appointment would do in alleviating the Senate gridlock, where there are 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

The lieutenant governor is the presiding officer of the Senate, but his presence does not count towards a quorum. A lieutenantgovernor can break ties “for procedural matters,” Paterson said.

Since the June 8 coup, the Senate has not convened with both parties in the Senate chamber at the same time.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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