Someone’s gotta do something

In Columns by Hal Peterson0 Comments

As mentioned in my prior column, reforming state affairs will be easier said than done, requiring political support across party lines and leadership that has not been evident to date. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently commented “New Yorkers are frustrated with their government, with the economy, with politics, with the way things are today.” Not exactly a mea-cupla. Obviously, “Someone’s gotta do something.” This plea is an indication that while almost everyone wants reform, we have little real understanding of who the agents of change are, no less what they hope to accomplish. I believe these concerns can be reenergized using, as a source of information, a web cast presentation hosted by the Albany Law School on May 27, 2010.The topic: Discussion of the Public Authority Reform Act.

Ira Millstein, Senior Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges has for years worked to address specific reform considerations and the legislation in effect today. His advice to agency board members was surprisingly direct with an emphasis on fiduciary duties, realistic mission statements, personal responsibility and accountability. Mention was also made to the expanded role of the Independent Authority Budget Office Board (IABO) alerting all present that their cooperation was needed in building a new reform agenda.

Also participating in the web-cast was Assemblyman Richard L. Brosky (D-Westchester) and State Senator William Perkins (R-30th Senate District) who are co-signers of the newly enacted reform act. You may recall Assemblyman Brosky was very instrumental in bringing the Erie Canal scandal questioning the operation of public authority agencies. He is also Chairman of the Committee on Corporations. His office recently issued subpoenas to the Fulton County Economic Development Corporation citing “excessive and secretive compensation.”

On January 19, 2010, our Governor Paterson announced “more than $1.0 billion in reductions to State agency operations spending including $500 million in additional across-the-board agency cuts etc.” This pronouncement might serve as a benchmark against which real reform can be measured.

Demands for cutbacks, more efficiency, spending controls are evident beyond New York State. On August 9th Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he would close a number of military commands, restrict the use of outside contractors and put 50 generals and flag officers out to pasture saving $100 billion dollars.

In Colorado, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators passed a pension overhaul bill. Governor Richard Lamm, was pleased “You can’t fund the dream of the 1960’s on the economy of 2010”.

With stones cast on water, we are now positioned to observe the ripple affect.

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