Paterson, The Governor Who Forgot To Get Mad

Do something, Dave, will ya?

Espada, whose rebellion continues unabated, has several soft spots despite his wise-guy swagger. The biggest is his Soundview Healthcare Center, which pays him $380,000 a year and provides his political base in funding and patronage jobs. As an administrator, Espada needs only the slightest reminder of how important state cooperation is to the smooth functioning of that empire. He knows that the state is obligated to investigate every outstanding complaint, however minor, and to audit every invoice, no matter how small the amount. He understands as well that state health inspectors have a job to do, and they would be remiss if they didn't give his half-dozen centers the closest of scrutiny.

Another soft spot is his residence. Enforcement of state residency rules has long been so lax that rogues like Espada—who brazenly keeps his home in a Westchester suburb, miles from his Bronx district—have openly flouted them. A message from the governor that he was going to seek new measures to enforce those laws would resonate deeply with the senator.

Late last week, Paterson was finally mulling another option that was always on the table, but which he resisted as though it would lead to nuclear winter: He told Democratic leaders he would call a special session of the legislature. Under this proviso, the governor can order the legislature to convene and sets the agenda. It can include as many or as few pieces of legislation as he feels require consideration. During the week that the Senate was shut down, the Assembly passed some 200 measures. Among them were sales tax laws that several upstate counties are dependent upon for basic funding, measures that extend much of the control that Mayor Bloomberg is seeking over city schools, even campaign finance reforms.

Words failed him: Paterson
Mike Groll/AP
Words failed him: Paterson

Albany veterans recall years ago, when a governor dispatched state troopers to literally pull legislators over on the New York State Thruway and herd them back into such an extraordinary session. Paterson, loath as he seems to use it, has that power, and more. "He can lock the door once they're inside and make them stay there," said one former pol. "It doesn't mean they're going to agree on who's going to hold the gavel. But at least it puts them together in the room." And at least New York's accidental governor will have done something.

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