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New York's coup d'etat

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.

What the heck is going on in Albany? A coup in New York State. I thought that was saved for countries on the brink, but I guess New York is the size of some small counties in the world.

Two Democrats who are little crybabies are stamping their feet in the sand and throwing it in the faces of the Democratic leadership in the state.

On a generally pleasant Monday morning, all things seemed to be going in the right direction. The Democrats had the power in Albany. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was firmly in control of the State Senate, and that legislative body was well on the way to continue the path that would right past wrongs and bring new hope to a state that has had some recent ups and downs.

But with a whisper and then a roar, Albany was shaken. Shaken to its core, as two members of the Democratic Party switched party alliances to further their own personal ambitions rather than do the job they were elected to by the people that voted them in. State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., who is currently being investigated for the umpteenth time for goings-on at the Soundview Health Clinic in connection with his election financing, along with failing to file campaign reports going back to 2002, had the most to gain by switching alliances. The would-be "majority leader" Dean Skelos has named him the president of the Senate.

State Senator Hiram Monserrate, on the other hand, is gaining far less, at least publicly. Monserrate is facing three counts of felony assault and three counts of misdemeanor assault for an alleged attack on his girlfriend. If convicted, he would no longer be able to hold state office, according to the New York State Constitution, since felons cannot hold office. So what he hopes to gain from this switch of party allegiance is not clear, but it could be that he feels that the state Democrats did not come to his aid after the indictments and now he's turning on them by playing for the other team. Maybe he thinks billionaire Tom Golisano will come to his aid after he is destitute. What is not a shock is that the Republicans have gone into the dregs of the Democratic Party to pull up two turncoats.

As Gov. David Paterson so succinctly put it: "At a time of historic fiscal crisis and in a rising climate of fear when nearly 200,000 New Yorkers have lost their jobs and many more risk losing their homes, in the last two weeks of the legislative session when the people need their government to be hard at work, the actions taken on the Senate floor today need to be exposed for what they are: an unnecessary distraction to government dressed up in the cloak--falsely-- of reform and good government.

"I should be standing here right now talking to you about the issues the people need Albany to address, but once again, Albany's dysfunction has raised its ugly head. We should be talking about how to put our fiscal house in order or how to reform ethics or unemployment insurance or industrial development associations. We should be talking about how to cap property taxes or to cut spending. We should be talking about whether or not we're going to have marriage equality, whether there will be more choices for women or healthier choices for children, should we have more or less gun control.

"This is an outrage, and I think when the real reformers know that their name is being used for these types of actions, they will as incensed as I am. "I commit myself to the people of the State of New York, that I will not allow this to go on much further because this is the dereliction of duty that all of us swore an oath to the people of the State of New York."