The Empire Page Political Story of the Year award goes to the tea parties. Note that I don’t say the Tea Party – since despite the efforts to some to convert a popular uprising into a top-down organization, the grass roots has thus far resisted being folded, spindled and mutilated.
I’m not saying I agree with all of the views advocated by different tea party groups or candidates. I most certainly do not. However, I agree with and support anyone’s decision to get off their couch and become a player rather than a spectator. Not since the 1960s when there was another grass roots movement that championed different causes have we seen this level of citizen activism. We need more tea parties – i.e., more people deciding that this is not the time to elect people to office and then not pay attention to what they do in office until they come up for re-election.
I hope everyone understands that serous changes must be made in how we finance the public sector of our society and how it functions. Three factors militate change. The most obvious is that our society can’t afford to pay the freight.
Early on in the current crisis some people viewed the problem as a short-term or temporary one – something that would be taken care of by the federal stimulus monies. Hopefully, today we can all see that this is not the case. Stimulus monies cannot be counted on to fix next year’s $9 billion state government shortfall, or the shortfalls facing many if not most of our municipal governments or the on-going shortfalls that we face in the future as public pension costs continue to escalate.
The second factor that needs to be addressed is that many of the problems we’ve tried to fix by throwing money at them have not been fixed. Schooling is the most obvious example.
Third, we have to recognize that as a state we cannot afford duplication in government. That means consolidation of local government entities – police and fire districts, school districts, villages, towns and perhaps even counties – is essential in order to be able to afford the services that can only be provided by the public sector.
Finally as we await the proposals and leadership of Andrew Cuomo, let’s not leave everything up to him and his staff. As brilliant as he is, as bright and energetic as his appointments and staff will be, they do not have a monopoly of experience, vision or solutions.
Now’s the time for everyone with a good suggestion for how we can fix things in a way that preserves New York as the Empire State – a great place to work and live – to speak up.
A good example of what’s needed appeared in a column today in the New York Daily News by Michael Fitzpatrick, an Assemblyman from Suffolk County. Fitzpatrick argues persausively that there are 12,000 elected officials who have a conflict of interest when it comes to fixing the runaway pensions problem. His solution involves separating out elected officials into a new class. Read the rest of his plan at http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/01/02/2011-01-02_albanys_most_urgent_task_pry_polls_from_their_pensions.html.
Our poll question of the week? Will you be more active in 2011 than you were in 2010?