Sunday, February 18, 2007

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo working hard...

I thought I would share this editorial today that was in The New York Times, pretty much saying what a great job Mr. Cuomo is doing as AG.

With Gov. Eliot Spitzer now adding so much political electricity to New York’s State Capitol these days, it is sometimes easy to overlook all the commotion going on right down the hall. There, in the offices of New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo and his high-powered staff are beginning to make waves all over the state.

Sworn in on Jan. 1, Mr. Cuomo has since unveiled the following projects. For anyone interested in improving Albany, this is sweet music.

*He recently announced his intention to sue Exxon Mobil and four other oil companies unless they can reach an agreement to clean up Newtown Creek, a heavily polluted waterway separating Queens and Brooklyn. The pollution results from a leak in a Standard Oil refinery many years ago; the seepage continues to find its way into the East River, meanwhile creating toxic vapors that threaten neighborhoods along the canal.

Despite heavy pressure from environmental groups, chiefly Riverkeeper, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has so far been unwilling to push the companies very hard. Mr. Cuomo’s intervention is therefore welcome.

*He and his staff have developed a new and powerful strategy to make certain that the millions of dollars legislators give away each year — the so-called member items used to underwrite special projects in a legislator’s home district — actually have a true “public purpose.” The attorney general’s office is responsible for approving contracts before the state gives out money. This has usually been a rubber-stamp operation, but now the person or entity that gets the money will have to certify that there is no financial connection to the politician who grants the funds. The recipient also has to promise to do what the contract pays for. That means no more handouts to relatives, no more handouts to business partners, no more easy money.

This will still not prevent powerful politicians like Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver from routing extra millions to their own districts, but it might make the Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, think twice before giving a fat state grant to a company run by one of his business associates.

*He has started Project Sunlight, which Mr. Spitzer has endorsed by providing money for it in this year’s budget. Sunlight is just the thing Albany needs. As now designed, the project would organize public data — including information about campaign finance, lobbying, state contracts and legislative activity — on one Web site, replacing a system that is “balkanized and unconnected,” as a news release laments.

These and other proposals look promising. The challenge for Mr. Cuomo will be to stick to the high road so that the investigations do not smack of politics and appear to be the work of just another ambitious official pursuing headlines and higher office. If Mr. Cuomo and his staff really follow through on his news releases and public promises, New Yorkers could be rewarded with a state government and an environment that are, simply, cleaner than before.


Anonymous said...


The trUth said...

Im interested in knowing what is this "public purpose" limitation in the New York State Constitution that applies to Member Item Grants.

From my research, it seems as if Article XVI (on Taxation) Sec. 1 may apply: "The Power of taxation shall never be surrendered, suspended or contracted away, execpt as to securities issued for "public purposes" pursuant to law.

The constitution does not define securities, is it safe for us to assume a Member Item Grant is a security? If not, then where in the constitution is this "Public Purpose" limitation vested?