When 2015 began, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were at the top of the heap in Albany, about to begin another legislative session in seemingly invincible power. Stunningly, they now find themselves out of power and bound for prison in 2016.
Shocking as their downfall was, we now await for someone in Albany to emerge as the leader of true reform that will shatter the “pay-for-play” and “three men in the room” system of government that dominated New York for so long.
This might be the most defining political moment in New York politics in more than a century. It rivals the downfall of New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker, the last of the infamous Tammany Hall influenced politicians, whose administration was brought down in 1932 amid charges of corruption. Walker testified before a special committee that he accepted payments from various firms in exchange for procuring them municipal work contracts. Soon after, he resigned from office and absconded to Europe, avoiding prosecution.
The remnants of the Walker administration gave way in 1934 to the election of Fiorello LaGuardia, a true government reformer who would spend the next 12 years leading the city through the Great Depression and World War II while rooting out public corruption.
The convictions of Skelos and Silver should signal the start of real reform in Albany, not just as a “wakeup call for the Legislature,” as Governor Andrew Cuomo remarked last Friday. We’ve hit the snooze button long enough; it’s time for real action!