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In the last week, Queens became the breeding ground for the meltdown of state government. The gridlock that has made the state Senate the laughing stock of the nation was in part the handiwork of a Queens politician currently awaiting trial for allegedly slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass.
At the same time, the meltdown exposed the ineffectiveness of another senator from Queens who until last week served as the Senate majority leader.
In a surprise move, Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada jumped ship, forming a coalition with the Senate Republicans, enabling the GOP to regain control of the Senate. They voted to oust Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.
This would not have happened had the Democrats, who controlled the Senate by the narrowest of margins, found the courage in January to challenge the seating of Monserrate. He should not have been allowed to take his seat. They had plenty of reasons to question his character and ability to legislate.
Now their refusal to stand up to a fellow Democrat has come back to haunt them. Likewise, they had plenty of reason to question the character of Espada.
State government has ground to a halt. The Senate had important business to take care of, including legislation that would allow the mayor to retain control of the public school system. It did not get done.
We are not persuaded by talk coming from Republicans about forming a bipartisan coalition to run state government. This was a power grab made possible by two politicians who were reportedly upset Smith did not come up with the member items and key appointments they thought they were getting.
Sadly, this backroom deal has made a mockery of the democratic process. The affairs of government should be done in the open.
There is concern this episode will divide the borough’s Hispanics, who continue to back Monserrate, and the borough’s blacks, who took great pride in the fact Smith had been given one of the most powerful positions in state government.
That is quite an accomplishment for two senators who should have been shown the door a long time ago.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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