BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS
Conventional wisdom says that a politician surrounded by external scandals should be silent or issue pious pronouncements. Conventional wisdom is wrong. One must never be silent in the face of apparent corruption. Silence, sadly, equals consent.
I understand that “all have sinned and have fallen short…” and I pray to be able to live up to the standard that I am about to set. However, the truth is still the truth, no matter who falls short – including me.
In light of the troubling allegations against my colleagues in the Senate, Assembly and City Council, it is important that we all pause for a moment and remember that the Bible enjoins us to pray for our leaders. In the face of such turmoil, one can understand why.
I understand that all are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Yet, this is a critical opportunity for the people of the State of New York to reflect on what they deserve from their leaders, and what their responsibility is to their leaders. As the prosecutors do their job to uncover the truth and pursue justice here, we must not be armchair quarterbacks, but must fully engage the discussion of what is wrong in the system and how we can use this as an opportunity to find workable solutions.
STEALING OR MISUSING THE OFFICE IS WRONG
When New Yorkers choose their leaders, they are making a crucial investment into not only their futures, but into the futures of the next generation. This investment of time, resources and the invaluable vote should be made into individuals displaying integrity, honesty, vision, hard-work and compassion.
Anyone who accepts the call of politics should understand their responsibility to youths, adults and elders. Frankly, if you don’t think you can do it, don’t enter or get out!
THE NEED FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY
It must be acknowledged that the failure of government to truly be transparent and to open up the recesses of power to the checks of the people has played its part. Continuance of the three men in a room (now four men), and other such closed-door unchecked decision making, lures some individuals to seek power that isn’t subject to appropriate oversight.
MAKE THE SENATE A FULL-TIME JOB
I am constantly searching for the 25th hour in the 24-hour day, and 60 hour work weeks are not uncommon. The state will benefit more from transforming the position into a full-time job, which it is, from the part-time one it currently is. The state legislature should be made full-time, the compensation should be raised and legislators should be prohibited from having outside employment, which all too often either creates direct conflict or, at the very least, gives an appearance of conflict.
WE MUST COMMIT TO EDUCATING THE ELECTORATE, WE MUST ALL LEARN CIVICS
In addition, the failure of everyday people to know who their representatives are and what their representatives are supposed to be doing has also contributed to unchecked misbehavior. How many of our residents know the difference between a city councilmember, an assemblymember, a state senator and a congressional representative? Where do their representatives work? And what are their roles? Or who even knows who their representatives are for that matter! This ignorance allows good, hard-working representatives to be lumped in with the few who bring disgrace and shame to the office.
This tragedy has provided us with an opportunity to combat this problem. I propose that we open up government and make it more transparent, raise the pay of our representatives — and remove the lure of searching for more money — and everyone take it upon themselves to learn the legislative and political process and all of those involved in it. If we do these things, we will make it more difficult to steal and less forgiving if you do.
State Senator James Sanders represents the 10th District.