Deutchman on Albany Reform – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Deutchman on Albany Reform

Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman is quoted in an article in the Democrat and Chronicle about upcoming elections and efforts to reform Albany. The article notes grievances against the current state government have spurred activism, including those from groups who haven’t previously been involved in state politics and older groups who are “ramping up their efforts.”

The article notes, “If voter anger continues until November, the question for election victors will be whether it shapes their agenda. But Iva Deutchman, professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said the election depends more on turnout, not anger.”

“If Nov. 2 is a pretty sunny day they might show up,” she said of voters. “If it’s rainy and crappy and cold, (they’ll ask) why am I doing this?”

Deutchman holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics.

The full article follows.


Democrat and Chronicle
Activist groups trying to reform dysfunctional Albany

Jill Terreri • Staff writer • October 15, 2010

A billion dollars in new taxes. Unchecked power in the state Legislature. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate.

Grievances against Albany that might make a greatest hits record are among the seeds of a new activism that could change the course of state government.

Disgust among voters and prominent members of the political establishment alike over the status quo is spurring greater scrutiny of a beleaguered state capital known more for its bad actors and lack of transparency than its programs or services.

New groups are weighing in on campaigns and spending money to get their messages out and support candidates, while older groups are ramping up their efforts:

• The Tea Party has tapped into voter angst, drawn hundreds of thousands to rallies and spurred results in GOP primaries from Alaska to Delaware.
• Two prominent Democrats have started separate organizations that seek to reform Albany’s ways.
• Business organizations both upstate and statewide are seeking to expand their electoral influence. Some of the campaign groups want better government. Others want lower taxes. But Albany’s ethical challenges, including a failed coup in the Senate led by Espada and Monserrate, are part of what’s aggravating voters in New York. High property taxes and a weak economy are other causes of frustration.

The high-stakes issue
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Manhattan entrepreneur Bill Samuels, both Democrats, have started separate organizations that seek to reform Albany’s ways. Already, the groups have had some success. Koch’s group, New York Uprising, is focused on reforming the way district lines are drawn after every census, and is asking candidates to sign pledges affirming their commitment to an independent process. The next reapportionment will take place in 2011 or 2012. Independent redistricting has been pushed by good government groups such as the League of Women Voters for decades. It’s a high-stakes game that determines the fortunes of each party for the next 10 years, and it’s the subject of much back-room dealing.

But this year, the major gubernatorial candidates have said they would veto district lines if they are not redrawn independently.

In the Senate, Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and some of his members have said he supports Koch’s initiative, as has the entire Republican conference. Support from the Assembly leadership, however, is lacking.

Blair Horner, a veteran Albany watcher who has been lobbying for redistricting reform for years, said this year pressure can be brought before a governor is elected.

Whether independent redistricting succeeds or fails hinges on how strongly the governor is committed to it, Horner said.

“The Legislature simply will not do it, will not enact reforms on their own,” he said. “If the governor vetoes (the redrawn lines), that forces a discussion.”

Samuels, who has been involved in Democratic politics for years and has roots in Canandaigua, started raising money for the New Roosevelt Initiative in February.

He was inspired to start the organization as a way to reform the state Legislature by supporting reform-minded Democrats after the Senate coup. “I’d had it with everybody,” Samuels said.

He made ousting Espada his top priority, and invested more than $250,000 in the race. On Primary Day, Espada, who along with others is accused of taking $14 million from health clinics he runs for personal use, was defeated by political organizer Gustavo Rivera by nearly a 2-1 ratio.

Samuels and Rivera visited Rochester last month to announce their support for Mary Wilmot, a Democrat running against Sen. Jim Alesi, R-Perinton.

Meanwhile, a pro-business organization founded in 2007, Unshackle Upstate, will spend money on selected races for the first time this year. The organization has issued report cards on each lawmaker, focused on their record on taxes and spending and will try to unseat certain incumbents.

“Everywhere I go they’re frustrated with the out-of-control spending, (average people) are frustrated with the taxes,” said Brian Sampson, executive direct-or of Unshackle Upstate. “That’s not a representative government of what the state of New York wants.”

And for the first time in its 30-year history, the state Business Council is making political endorsements this year.

The state Business Council’s website lists candidates who have signed the “Five to Survive” pledge to cap property taxes and state spending, reduce the tax burden, limit borrowing and reform the pension system.

The new players

Activist groups that seek to influence elections or push an agenda are common during times of economic distress.

“When the public is angry, groups sprout,” said Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which lobbies on behalf of various governmental reform and environmental issues. “They’re more or less effective depending on what resources they have.”

New players in the mix are a good thing, said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a group that has pushed for fair redistricting since 2005.

“I think it reflects a growing feeling of New Yorkers that reform is necessary in Albany,” he said. “The more organizations and resources devoted to the fight for reform, the better. … People really want to see change.”

If voter anger continues until November, the question for election victors will be whether it shapes their agenda. But Iva Deutchman, professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said the election depends more on turnout, not anger.

“If Nov. 2 is a pretty sunny day they might show up,” she said of voters. “If it’s rainy and crappy and cold, (they’ll ask) why am I doing this?”

JTERRERI@DemocratandChronicle.com

Includes reporting by Cara Matthews of the Gannett Albany bureau.