By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The most expensive of our visiting justices, Buckley's vouchers indicate he is reimbursed for $3066 a month in rental costs, and has been paid by allotment for as many as 27 breakfasts and 27 dinners a month. His colleague from Poughkeepsie, George Marlow, also assigned to the First Department by Pataki, joined Buckley in the outrageous Espada decision. Marlow's expenses total $56,123 since he was assigned in May 2001. Two upstate associate justices assigned by Pataki to the second department in Brooklyn, judges Nancy Smith and Sandra Townes, have run up $87,811 in expenses. The four-judge total is the state's price tag for Pataki's preference for partisan appointments.
Appellate judges are required by law to be elected Supreme Court judges and, until Pataki changed the rules by executive order in 1997, they had to be approved by a screening panel appointed by him and other state officials that sits in each of state's four departments. Pataki changed it so that an upstate panel could clear candidates for a downstate department, prompted, no doubt, by the scarcity of elected GOP judges in the city. That's allowed him to pack the premier downstate departments with upstate partisans.
Asked if he appointed downstate Democrats to vacancies in heavily Republican upstate, or shifted assignments anywhere for party reasons, former governor Mario Cuomo said he didn't, pointing to the GOP majority he named to the Court of Appeals. In fact, the last upstate judge assigned to the First Department before Pataki was in 1975. The judge's party affiliation was unclear.
Row H For McCall
The Voicehas decided for reasons unknown not to make an endorsement in this year's gubernatorial election. I and Tom Robbins urge readers to vote for Carl McCall on the Working Families Party line. He is an able and decent public servant, and 50,000 votes on that line is crucial to maintaining a progressive party on New York's ballot.
I have been on Governor Pataki's case for weeks here, but I have a confession to make. On a hunch last Friday, I rode out to Cold Spring in Westchester to find out if Pataki, like his counterpart McCall, had ever tried to get a job for one of his children. I noted from the governor's disclosure forms that 19-year-old Ted had worked in the summer of 2000 for a landscaping-masonry contractor called Gregorio & Gregorio, located a few miles from the family's Garrison home. Since the listed address for the company turned out to be its owner's empty home, I roamed Route 9 until I found it. The company was a portable shed off the highway with no sign. All that stood by it was a pile of heavy stone and Mario Gregorio, who spoke with a heavy Italian accent. Yes, he said, "the father asked me to give him a job."
What did the kid do?
"He carried and broke stone. His father wanted him to do hard work. I taught him how to mix cement. He never missed a day."
Have you ever done any state work?
"I leave that to the big boys. I don't want to bother with the paperwork."
Why did the father ask you?
"I've known him all my life. I used to buy flowers at the Pataki family farm."
That's George Pataki the person, as opposed to George Pataki the politician. He leaves this kind of endearing tale in his wake all the time. People around him truly like him. It only makes more anomalous the painful distance between these two sides of his life. How can a man of real values in his personal life run a government so dissolute? I wrote a book about a "City for Sale" once, but I have never known a government more for sale than Pataki's.
It helps none of us if he is personally admirable at times, so long as he loans his government to the D'Amatos and the Garganos and the O'Maras, who contaminate a state. The ethics of the gang around this governor is the reason it is so important that we vote it out next Tuesday, November 5.