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“I’m very much surprised. He’s been a catalyst in the community. It’s very unexpected,” Reggie Stewart added.
Outside Smith’s office on Tuesday, some of his constituents feared that if they lose him, they lose the community’s clout.
“Playgrounds, basketball hoops, parks, we need a senator. Even for a little community like this, we need a senator,” Kizzie Ayers said.
Long-time friend, the Rev. Alonzo Jordon, said Smith is a good man who is now facing a tough time.
“There’s a scripture that says how the mighty have fallen, and so now I can only offer prayers and moral support,’ Jordon said.
So many people CBS 2’s Brennan spoke to, whether in Spring Valley or Hollis, insisted that they don’t want to pass judgment until each person accused has had their say in court.
NYS Senate Has Checkered History
So many members of the state Senate have been in trouble over the years, the U.S. Attorney said it seems like the movie “Groundhog Day” every time he announces a new indictment.
So, can anything be done to clean things up?
Last election, Queens Sen. Tony Avella squeaked into the Senate, ousting a 38-year incumbent.
But now Avella said he wonders if it was worth it.
“Decisions are made each and every day, and the people are sold out each and every day, because of the corruption,” Avella told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
Avella said it’s a shameful record in the state Senate. Ten senators have been busted on corruption charges over the last eight years — a litany of alleged lawmaker lawbreakers.
U.S. Attorney Bharara wondered aloud if it’s the worst governing body in the country.
“Not every state Legislature has this degree of criminality that’s been exposed,” Bharara said.
Insiders said money is at the root of this as New York senators spend an average of $400,000 to get elected — and many donors expect influence.
“They want favors in return for that money. Therein starts the corruption right off the bat,” Sen. Avella said.
Good government groups, including Citizen’s Union, have pushed for reforms, such as non-partisan elections.
“Where you remove influence of political parties and who gains access to the ballot. And open it up to all citizens who want to gain access and run for political office, regardless of the party,” Citizen’s Union’s Dick Dadey said.
Other ideas include term limits and full public financing of campaigns.
Avella something even more drastic may be in order.
“I wonder when the people of this city and the people of this state are going to wake up and throw these people out of office, across the board, and, you know, I’d be happy to go if it meant throwing everybody else out,” Sen. Avella said.
Call it the “drain the swamp” approach.
CBS 2’s Aiello asked Senate Leader Dean Skelos for a specific comment regarding the record of corruption in his chamber. He responded with a generic statement, calling the latest charges “extremely troubling.”
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