By State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine
Competition is part of what it is to be an American. Over the past few weeks this has been clearly demonstrated by our success in the Winter Olympics. Like everyone who took a moment to watch the events or follow our athletes, I am proud of our 37 medals, especially the silver medal awarded to the U.S.A. Hockey Team, which entered these games an underdog but competed intensely down to the very end of SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game.
Competition is a building block of our society beyond sports, especially in our economic and political systems. Our economy thrives when businesses compete, grow and encourage new entrepreneurs. Likewise, our strong democracy requires competition for public office. However, in this arena we see too many examples of that competition getting in the way of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best for the people. Competition among political parties and political rivals draws the mediaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attention, distracting the public and public officials from where our priorities should be.
Perhaps no better example of this has been the coverage of Governor David Paterson, every announced, expected and possible candidate looking to replace him, and the mounting allegations swirling about him. Domestic violence and the treatment of victims should never be taken lightly and this story is of great concern to me. However, my concern is not, and has never been, election year politics.
The coverage has been framed in terms of the upcoming election and whether or not the Governor will run, and now whether or not he can serve without running for re-election. Enough is enough. There is too much important business at hand, from pending legislation to the increasingly difficult task of addressing our budget challenges. The announcement Friday that the governor will not seek a full term should not be the driver of a new news cycle. We must recognize that this is our opportunity to set aside the constant distraction of election year politics and focus on the budget, job creation and the economy. He is out of the competition and now is the time to serve.
I for one will continue to work with all of my colleagues in the Legislature on crafting a responsible budget. Part of that will be supporting proposals from the governor and part will include opposing those plans I view as misguided. This is where the news attention should be. My opposition to the closure of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility and concerns regarding our historic sites at Fort Ontario and Sackets Harbor are well documented. On the other hand, I appreciate the proposals to reduce mandates on local schools in conjunction with reduced funding, but I believe we can do more to make the distribution of limited funding fair for our schools.
Last week, lost in the shuffle of stories about controversy and largely ignored, we saw bipartisan agreement in the Senate on a resolution opposing the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan to delay the return of some $500 million in personal income tax refunds, and another $200 million in refunds for businesses. Immediately afterward, I joined my Republican colleagues to go one step further, pushing a petition to move a bill that would change the law so refunds must be returned in 30 days. This kind of collaboration was not possible before rules changes we passed last year.
The media will do what it wishes, and speculation on the competitive electoral process will continue, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important we never lose sight of the real work being done in Albany on behalf of the taxpayers. My commitment remains the people of Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important that election year politics do not get in the way of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s at stake.