Senate Coup: Reform or Power Grab?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Senator Pedro Espada

Senator Pedro Espada

One of the dissident Democrats who joined Republicans in yesterday's leadership coup in New York's Senate says the move isn't about returning power to the GOP. Queens Democrat Hiram Monserrate tells WNYC's Brian Lehrer it's about pushing real reform on which the five-month old Democratic leadership failed to deliver, saying yesterday's vote enacted several reform measures.

'We also impose a term limit on committee chairs so as to as prevent, or to ensure, new ideas, progressive values.'

But Manhattan Democratic Senator Liz Krueger says the coup was simply about Republicans wanting control back.

'Well I think this was a power grab because they felt totally threatened by Democratic ideals and Democratic agendas going forward.'

Monserrate was joined in his defection by Pedro Espada of the Bronx, who was made leader of the Senate in yesterday's vote. Queens Democrat Malcolm Smith says the vote was illegal and he's still in charge. A court challenge is expected. Espada says he'll convene the Senate tomorrow with or without Smith and his backers.

The Republican takeover has some locals outraged. Rebecca Slotnik is a teacher and resident of Jackson Heights, within Senator Monserrate's district. She says was already outraged, about an alleged assault by Monserrate against his girlfriend.

'This just shows that he might not actually understand the job description which is to represent the people who elected him. I don't think he's doing that at all.'

Slotnik says she's especially concerned the Republican takeover will prevent the passage of same-sex marriage legislation. However, Monserrate told Brian Lehrer that the leadership change won't affect the prospects of a same-sex marriage bill.

'I don't think that it impacts it one way or the other. Senator Espada, who's the president of the Senate, is in support of gay marriage. he has stated that he wants to have a dialogue and a discussion and an up or down vote.'

A bill passed the Assembly but has been stalled in the Senate, where it's not clear it has the votes to pass.

Bronx Senator Pedro Espada's role in the coup surprised constituents in his district who have been paying attention to the state political drama. Bronx resident Morey Toure says he thinks Espada, along with fellow Democrat Hiram Monserrate of Queens, betrayed Democrats.

'I think it's selfishness they have done - no matter what being with your party you supposed to have a conviction - party's the party it's a family thing.'

Espada represents the 33rd District in the East Bronx. He replaced former State Senator Efrain Gonzalez last year. Gonzalez has since pled guilty to funneling $200,000 in state funds for personal use.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg is remaining pragmatic about the political coup in Albany, even as he waits for state lawmakers to act on several agenda items before the current legislative session ends.

Bloomberg says he's hoping to see movement on approving parts of the city's budget, renewing mayoral control of the schools, and reorganizing the pension system -- no matter who's in power:

'You know I can't read the tea leaves anymore than anybody else and it's not our job. We are going to go up there and work as hard as we can -- whoever is in power. I think all these threeissues you need non-partisan support anyways.'

More stories on the coup in Albany >>


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Comments [10]

Dan from Brooklyn

Obviously the Senate should still considered in the Democratic majority, and THAT is THAT. I believe that the Democratic Senators who defected to the other side clearly did so to counter the possibility of their ouster.

How could these miscreants possibly take care of thir districts'business? The accused will have to spend most of the peoples' time defending themselves in court against the accusations of the crimes and Misdemeanors that they have have been accused of. Time is money - how can they in good consicience waste it NOW?

Somehow, and right away and in good CONSCIENCE,the senate should REMOVE these Senators, period.

For the Republicans who refuse to recognize is hypocritical and totally corrupt. That means that they are not guilty by commission, but OMISSION.

Jun. 10 2009 09:58 AM

To Pedro Espada I say, we did not vote for you, we voted for your party and would now vote you out based on poor performance - irrationality, instability, and an inflated sense of self. In short Mr. Espada is off his rocker.

To the republican party I say: You can’t speak for the people. “I” and just about everyone I spoke with are ‘the people’ This was done without actually consulting the People, the public. Your thinking that this is for the people is a delusion, a manipulation of story.

The people put democrats in the seat because we want change. We’re only begning to see the light of day after the deception of 8 years of republican leadership. This is an extension of that same deception but at the local level. It is a deliberate attempt to undermine the nascent democratic party’s endeavor to bring balance.
In this way, the republicans are abusing the airwaves to manipulate public opinion. Just stop.
As for the grid lock with the issues on the table, WAKE UP, the entire country is in GRID LOCK. We all know that the entire country is in economic failure due to the direct fallout of banking industry greed and republican mismanagement of funds, undertaxing the wealthy.

This is not a coup. It is a desparate attempt to rob the power of the people. It is a media event staged by the republicans to throw public opinion off-balance. The weak and vulnerable will pay the price. Shame on you.

Mr. Gold... (whatever his name is) The EMPIRE STATE that it used to be… my friend, time has passed. You're wearing your age on your sleeve. And you sound like you’ve never been out of your borough. Leadership styles have changed tremendously. You and the republican party have not. This is why we voted for Change.

Jun. 10 2009 09:42 AM

Two very general comments:
using the term "stimulus" to the economy in the same sentence as taxes on the people, with alarmist tones, only speaks to people who read tabloids and know nothing of basic sound economics. "Stimulus" is part of what the Fed has been doing as any sane economist would agree with. Let's keep the language clear.. . As for conditions of inner city schools, who will have the courage in this day and age and speak to the truth about social values and sexual behavior, its effect on children and youth. That schools and teachers can save young people from the consequences of the values of communities of generations of children raising children, is as laughable as the Emperor's invisible clothes. Nobody believes it except those who can't look at their own behavior and values as being culpable.

Jun. 10 2009 09:41 AM
Sean Pisano

How is gay marriage a social issue? First marriage is a contract between 2 people. Second the marriage industry is a big money maker. More marriages mean more jobs.

Jun. 10 2009 09:35 AM

We did vote them out of office!

Jun. 10 2009 09:31 AM

With mayoral control, all the statistics on school and education have come from Bloomberg's office. There is NOBODY challenging any of the claims that are coming. It's self-reported (and maybe created) data.

Jun. 10 2009 09:29 AM
mark Brown

I think the democrat 'doeth protesteth too much'. He's complaining about "mayoral control", as well as "republican control/takeover" while he is being NO Way WE ARE CORRURPT.

We need another version of the ny term limit laws.

like I say for the US : 18 years as senator (3 terms) or 9 terms as a congresman.

and one 6 yr term as president, no re-election.

These crooks in albany need to have their wings clipped.

Jun. 10 2009 09:23 AM
Maria from Harlem

New York Times:

"Mr. Espada sought more than $2 million in earmarks this year for two groups with links to Soundview.

State records indicate that the groups were created just days before Mr. Espada put in the requests, which Senate Democrats rejected in early April, saying they could not confirm that the groups were legitimate nonprofit organizations."

Jun. 10 2009 09:17 AM
Maria from Harlem

Reform comes with open dialogue not a take over. Do what I say, or else. Reform?

Back to the people? THE PEOPLE! A coup is the work of the people?!

Jun. 10 2009 09:16 AM

Yes or no? Were NY Senate rules violated? Either way, this stinks, but if rules were violated, where is the Justice Department?

Jun. 10 2009 09:04 AM

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