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An Amazing 100 Days for NY Guv Patterson

Amsterdam News, News Analysis, Herb Boyd Posted: Jul 01, 2008

Its one thing to talk about the first 100 days of an administration in a conventional way, but there has been nothing ordinary about Gov. David Patersons arrival at the helm of the state, so it may not be fair to assess his tenure in a typical fashion.

Nevertheless, no matter the circumstances that brought him to this high place, Patersons beginning is being evaluated with little consideration to the fact that he suddenly was thrust into the new position. Perhaps its best to give the governor himself a crack at judging his first three months on the job.
In the beginning we got off to a sputtering start, Paterson said in a recent interview, noting that it didnt take long to find an even keel. However, he was bothered by the accidental tag given to his arrival.

I never heard of Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, who became governor when John Roland was convicted of a crime, or Gov. Cody who became governor of New Jersey when Gov. McGreevy resigned, I never heard them referred to as accidental governors, Paterson said. No one ever called Harry Truman an accidental president. It was no accident here. Its built into our constitution and thats what is supposed to happen.

Built into the states constitution is also the requirement to get a budget approved in a timely fashion. During an interview with Tavis Smiley on his PBS show, Paterson offered this response to the budget: Well, a reporter said to me, You were sworn in on March 17 and the budget was due March 31; it's been late 23 out of 25 years in New York, and we passed the budget a week after it was due. And he said, But it was late. And I told him that I got there eight weeks late and got it passed one week late, so I think I'm ahead of the game.
Assemb. Keith Wright, from his vantage point in Albany, believes that Paterson is indeed ahead of the game. I think hes done an excellent job, given that he walked into a firestorm not of his own making and came out unscathed, he began. He successfully negotiated the budget and has brought a collegiality back to Albany that has not been here in years.

David is just beginning to put his stamp, his fingerprints on his administration, and I, along with several others in the Senate and the Assembly, will do all we can to make this happen, Wright said.

Several polls conducted by the media outlets indicate Paterson has favorable numbers, including a recent one in the New York Daily News. The paper also published a report card from the survey with Paterson receiving A marks in working well with others and pressuring for school tax cap. He got a B on budget because he raised spending to nearly 5 percent. There were decent grades in accomplishments and leadership, though he cannot be called an alpha dog. His lowest grade was in reform, which the paper said he had aggressively pursued.

Reforms, said freelance journalist and lecturer Paul Robeson, say nothing about the structural changes that are necessary, which is the economic nitty-gritty. All politicians talk about reform, which is nothing but a bunch of clichs that are never actualized.

I think Gov. Paterson has done a brilliant job and well beyond the expectations of many, Robeson continued. Hes been a lot more than the decoration they had in mind when he was chosen to run with Eliot Spitzer, and I think he made a smart move on the circumstances surrounding his personal affairs. What has to be done now is to deal with the basic economic priorities, which means no deals for the major corporations. Rebuilding the infrastructure, creating jobs, this is where the pressure has to be applied.

In as much as the governor has renewed his commitment to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses are certified and given opportunities to obtain state contracts, there is at least some small indication of the measures demanded by Robeson.

And Paterson, as both Wright and Robeson suggested, is beginning to put his own personal stamp, his authority on the inherited administration, particularly a personality of wit and warmth. The point is that I think people think that you have to be rude, you have to be nasty, dishonest, disingenuous, a conniver and a backstabber to succeed in business or political affairs, he told Tavis Smiley, but the fact is that we're elected by the public to discharge duties, and showing off like you're big and bad when you know that you need other people in government to cooperate and get things done.

Getting down to work and getting things done were among the first words Paterson uttered after being sworn in, and they continue to be the watchwords of the states first African-American and legally blind governor. These obviously are not handicaps when you consider he has neutralized the likes of Mayor Bloomberg and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

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