ALBANY, N.Y. (1010 WINS/ AP) — Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch said Wednesday that state Senate leader John Sampson has joined his “New York Uprising” government reform movement.
“I believe it is of enormous importance and I welcome him,” Koch, a Democrat, told The Associated Press. “The only one standing in the way of reform now is (Assembly Speaker) Shelly Silver.”
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Sampson’s promise, in the form of in a letter, came just before a Wednesday event where Koch planned to praise the “heroes of reform” who commit to the changes and castigate those who refuse, the politicians he calls “enemies of reform.”
“We share the same reform goals,” Sampson wrote in the letter to Koch obtained by the AP. “As the leader of the Democratic majority in the state Senate — a majority that recently replaced 44 years of Republican rule — I appreciate the need for fundamental change in Albany.”
Sampson said it’s not his policy to sign pledges, but he supports Koch’s main issues: using an independent commission to redraw election district lines, a process that for decades has been controlled by the majority parties to protect their incumbents and power, and applying generally accepted accounting methods for state budgeting.
Silver, a lower Manhattan Democrat, has cited a personal policy not to sign pledges. But he told Koch in May the Democrat-led Assembly already passed many of the reforms his organization seeks and “is open to exploring ways to improve redistricting,” the process of redrawing election district lines every decade, said Silver spokeswoman Sisa Moyo.
“You’re not born to the purple here, you have to selected by your colleagues,” Koch told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks. “We would hope that those who have signed the pledges will require him to either step aside or join them.”
Every member of the Senate’s Republican minority including their leader, Sen. Dean Skelos of Nassau County, and all Republican challengers signed Koch’s pledge immediately about six weeks ago, said Skelos’ spokesman John McArdle.
“Our commitment is real, it’s genuine and it’s not an after thought,” McArdle said. “We did it on time.”
The highly partisan Senate has been perhaps the biggest target of reform by good-government advocates. A coalition of two Democrats and the Republican minority mounted a coup in the summer of 2009 that led to weeks of gridlock. Two Democrats eventually returned to their party for lucrative leadership posts. Since then, most important measures have passed by the minimum 32 votes required and along party lines. Democrats hold a 32-30 majority.
Koch said he’s accepting the Sampson letter as a substitute for signing the pledge.
“Rank has it’s privilege,” Koch said. “I’m not interested in unconditional surrender. This isn’t World War II. … I’m declaring victory.”
Koch said the majority of senators and assembly members and their challengers have now signed the pledge, along with all three candidates for governor.
“It ain’t done until it’s done,” Koch said. “This is just their pledge … and we’re going to hold them to their pledges.” If they don’t follow through on the specific legislative changes, “I will go into their districts and say, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire.”’
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)