New York Pols Go Back to the Days of Christopher Robin

“3 Men in a Room” in NY now as tame as a Winnie the Pooh picnic

For years in the hallowed halls of the state capital in Albany, the fate of New Yorkers was determined by government’s top three leaders; aka “3 Men in a Room”: Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democrat Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. All white men. All from New York City. And, propped up by the infamous Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) who were breakaway Democrats who voted with Senate Republicans to block just about everything that didn’t line their own pockets, their deal-making made New York Politics a real contact sport.

Public Domain Image from George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress), “Old Men Making Toys”

Rank and file legislators were relegated to their offices while literally in the backrooms of New York’s hulking capital buildings these three men and their IDC quislings held secret negotiations to determine the future of schools, economic development, public safety, workers’ rights, and health care. Not a single decision could be made without carefully navigating the whims and political needs of these political hucksters.

Now, former Governor Cuomo has resigned in disgrace after a scathing report by the State Attorney General for his harassment of 11 women, is under investigation for using his government staff to write a personal memoir, and is still tied to multiple cover-ups regarding deaths in nursing homes due to COVID-19.

Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver are both living as guests of the government, only this time in prison, guilty of lining their pockets with millions of dollars in graft and corruption.

And last but not least, because of the efforts a few brave candidates, dedicated volunteers and voters who saw the light, most of the Senators who were members of the IDC were beaten at the ballot box and are all off seeking new opportunities after a decade of holding New York’s tax-payers hostage.

With Cuomo’s resignation, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul has taken the reins of state government as governor. Now she must battle countless challenges left behind by his hamstrung administration from COVID to economic recovery, a state budget for 2022, and just 14 months till she faces election as Governor on her own.

And, she faces a growing list of potential competitors for that spot who are as plentiful as apples at an Upstate Apple Harvest. Everyone is sizing up their own chances of becoming New York’s next governor from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to Attorney General Letitia James and every New York City politico who has ever gotten more than two votes.

Governor Hochul’s got trouble. And like I said, in New York State, politics is a contact sport.

But one thing that is on her side is the transformation of the three men in the room negotiations to a diverse triumvirate that includes two women: Hochul and Senate Majority Andrea-Stewart Cousins, two African-Americans: Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and (oh horrors) an actual Upstater … Governor Hochul herself, the first Governor from Upstate New York in over 100 years.

Nowhere in recent memory have New York’s Top three leaders come from such diverse backgrounds.

All of them have pledged to be inclusive, responsive to their constituencies, honest, law-abiding and cooperative as Girl and Boy scouts. A welcome change if seemingly mythical.

Lest we forget, 2 of 3 of NY’s last Governors have resigned in disgrace and the aforementioned leadership in the Assembly and Senate are serving time in the pen along with former State Comptroller Alan Hevasi for being very bad boys indeed.

Their legacy is culture of graft and corruption that makes Richard Daley’s Chicago look like the student council in an elementary school.

Now, much to the amazement of New Yorkers who are watching the honeymoon with disbelief, following the new “Two Women and a Guy in a Room” make decisions is like watching Pooh, Eeyore and Christopher Robin frolicking under the tress in Ashdown Forest.

Whether or not these three new leaders can change the culture in the year till the election remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, the smell behind the curtain is a lot sweeter, and the mud in the backroom is for the moment, cleaned and the atmosphere pristine.

Time will tell.

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Kenneth L. Warner

Kenneth L. Warner

Writer, Sailor, Community Activist and recovering Cellar Rat. Retired on America’s N. Coast-30 year career for working families & over 100 Political campaigns