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I Sit And Look Out: Qns. pols must answer for Albany debacle

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Many years ago, when the world and I were younger, a New Yorker could take pride in the status of the state government. Former Govs. Alfred E. Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert H. Lehman and others showed the way to the rest of the nation on how to serve the citizens of a state.

Alas, the world has spun many times since then and we have grown older but clearly not wiser.

Recently, former Mayor Ed Koch, surveying the chaos in Albany, compared the comedy to a “banana republic.”

Koch was never known to be politically correct in his comments, so it is surprising some people did not accuse him of racial bias in making such a comment about the legislative spectacle, in which three Queens state senators figured prominently.

After all, it is believed the phrase was coined by O. Henry in his 1904 book of short stories “Cabbages and Kings,” set in the fictional Anchuria, which was based on his 1896-97 stay in Honduras.

That Central American nation, along with El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, is generally listed among those cited as being “banana republics.” Certainly, at least from time to time, none could be cited as shining examples of democratic nations.

Many people are responsible for the mess in the Senate, but over the course of the next few columns I plan to point to three members from Queens who bear special responsibility, I believe, for the debacle which took place in Albany. I have never met two of those involved and, if my luck holds, I never shall. I have met one of them on several occasions and that makes my disappointment with his inaction greater. None of the three have been my senator at any time.

I have informed my own senator — name withheld, but not one of the Queens Three — that his lack of leadership and courage in the face of the stupidity in his chamber has made it incumbent upon me not to vote for his re-election in November. Whether I will vote for his opponent or skip that line — something I do not do ordinarily — will depend on the campaign.

A late friend of Elaine and mine, a Queens political leader, had not only the necessary integrity required to hold public office, which he did, but the knowledge of the pitfalls and shortfalls of politics and commented upon them with intelligence and humor. The latter is certainly a rare quality in any political leader.

Consider this statement he made, but not always in jest: “Never vote for an incumbent.” Of course, he expected you to exclude his candidates from this injunction.

This comment, also from our late friend, will figure in the next few columns about our dysfunctional state government: “Never believe what politicians say about themselves. Always believe what they say about their opponents.”

As we shall see, it works every time.

Updated 5:42 pm, October 10, 2011
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