Daniel Squadron being sworn in on Jan. 7, 2009 as the senator from the 25th New York State Senatorial District.
Six months ago, Daniel Squadron took the oath of office as the senator from New York State's 25th senatorial district. Young (29 years old), idealistic and energetic, he went to Albany full of enthusiasm and eager to bring about systemic change. The last few weeks have been a baptism by fire for the senator.
Last night, in what he said would be the first of public conference calls where constituents could dial in and pose questions, Sen. Squadron said "I'm the new guy up here. I didn't understand any better than anyone else does why it was impossible to solve anything quickly."
Now, he does understand. "This is a fight over the leadership of the state senate," he said last night. "The way Albany is set up, in the state senate, leadership is everything." All of the power, Sen. Squadron explained, is vested in the Senate leader. "That person holds effectively a non-overrideable veto over every piece of legislation that goes through the state senate. That person controls all resources." He said that with so much power at stake, there was great likelihood of a stalemate such as presently exists.
On June 8, what Sen. Squadron referred to last night as "a coup" occurred. Two Democratic senators switched over to the Republicans. Since then, one switched back to the Democratic party, leaving the Senate evenly split, 31 to 31. Since June 8, there has not been a single session in which both parties participated.
Bills affecting such issues as mayoral control of the public schools, vacancy decontrol and same-sex marriage rights in New York State have been frozen in place. A bill that would have given New York City the right to raise the sales tax could not be finalized. "It's costing [New York City] $2 million a day because we didn't pass their budget bill," Sen. Squadron said last night.
Several callers wanted to know what could be done to get things going again. Sen. Squadron said that he sought a bi-partisan solution, but added, "You're talking about taking a problematic, long-term culture and building an entirely new one from scratch under enormous pressure."
He said that letters to the editor and phone calls to the senators were noted and heeded. "Say to the senators, this is urgent," he advised. "Continue to hold our feet to the fire. Try to distinguish who's interested in coming out of this with a better system than we went into it with and who's playing a simple power game. This is obviously a very dark time. But they say it's darkest before the dawn. I do believe there's a possibility of coming out of this with a better institution than we went into it."
Most State legislators get sent back to Albany every two years regardless of their records, he noted. "Something like this would be much more difficult when you have really competitive systems. It's only fair for elected officials to have to defend themselves and their records."
His bottom line advice to the public was to get involved in politics and stay involved.
- Terese Loeb Kreuzer