"Can Malcolm Smith, or Anyone, Make the Senate Function?" asks today's Politicker headline, with the story citing the gridlock in that house over the MTA and other issues. The gridlock exists on issues where Smith cannot corral all 32 Democratic votes for a majority. Since taking over the Senate this year, Smith and his conference have, like enthusiastic converts, adopted with revived rigor the Albany religion of top-down, completely partisan secret government, bringing nothing to the floor unless it is guaranteed to pass, and claiming falsely to have embarked on a path of reform that will make everything "transparent" and otherwise wonderful. What's really transparent is the hypocrisy of Smith and other leaders, the bipartisan corruption of the dysfunction, and the Senate's lackadaisical work ethic.
The way to fix this is open, representative government. Introduce a bill, on the MTA, gay marriage or anything else, let it be amended and debated, let cross-party alliances form pro and con, and a result emerge. It may well not be exactly the result the leaders have pre-ordained; it might (or might not) result in the defeat of a pet project like gay marriage. But Smith can't exercise leadership now in the traditional Albany way he wants to -- and that's not a bad thing. Three men in a room, underground funding streams, closed conferences and an open charade have governed the state too poorly for too long. On the MTA, Smith himself now admits he's just trying to get the votes to pass a deal, never mind what it says. That doesn't sound like a good way to run a transit system or a legislative house, especially when it's all being done in secret. The guy needs a self-help seminar, something like "How to Achieve by Letting Go with Rope-a-Dope Government: Why not Try Democracy?"