CONTROLLING COMPTROLLERS AND TEMPERING TEMPERS
By Edwin D. Reilly, Jr.
For The Sunday Gazette
"No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”
It was the
biblical Gideon that carried the trumpet, though Gideon Tucker’s
has carried down through 141 years. In fairness to our own Legislature,
quote is often borrowed by the citizens of many another state to
There’s a word
that is (almost) my own in my opening sentence. As one might gather
quote, I am about to do something I do not like to do, that is, to
how might I describe the act? There is a gerund to describe what I’m
while I am deploring, and I just used it. But what would be the noun
the completed action? My dictionaries give no clue. I find support on
for both “deplorement” and “deploration,” and hereby opt for the
my computer’s spelling checker doesn’t recognize either. “Deploration”
much stronger to me, especially when pronounced “dep’-loration,” there
“ploration” to negate with a prepended “de.”
easier to describe the aftermath of having declared something than
deplored it. The most famous usage is the Declaration of Independence.
is customary to make declarations when going through customs. Long ago,
Congress used to make declarations of war, but gave it up in favor of
Presidents do the job for them.
I don’t know
whether students still need to do so when sitting for a Regents exam,
I did I had to sign my work “I do so declare.” “Declare what, Sister?,”
the first time I encountered the alleged rule. Now, this was not an
form of address, because my teacher was a nun, one devoted to teaching
students good habits. And I never knew a nun with a bad habit.
“I do so declare”
at the end of an essay is, I was told, shorthand for the oath “I hereby
that what I have just written is my own work, no part of which has
and deliberately been copied from someone else’s work without proper
Now for some
deploration. Never, in all my years, have so many of our state
behaved so capriciously. Surely you know that I refer to that 150 to 56
install an Assemblyman—a “hail fellow, well met”—as our new Comptroller
than one of the three applicants deemed highly qualified by the
committee that the Legislature and Governor Spitzer had agreed to use.
of course, exempt and congratulate our own Assemblymen, Paul Tonko and
Tedisco, for supporting our Governor rather than Assembly Speaker
Silver, who has
the power, and often uses it, to punish those who fail to ratify his
wish. But Senators Bruno and Farley and local Assemblymen McEneny,
and Reilly (no relation) all voted for DiNapoli. And so did Alan
editorial I have seen on the subject took the Governor’s side of the
contretemps over what they deemed Mr. Silver’s insistence that an
be elected Comptroller in the combined session of the two houses of the
Legislature, a process dictated by our strange, arcane, and verbose
Constitution. One lonely voice demurred, that of Fred LeBrun of the
Union. Fred is firmly convinced that the Governor had it coming and
could not have deterred his membership even if he had wanted to. Really?
Perhaps I feel
so flummoxed because, after being outraged by the actions of our
now former Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, I had decided to forgive him and
him at the last minute last November because his opponent had such a
It never occurred
to me to run for Comptroller (which, by the way, despite all those
reporters, is pronounced the same as “Controller”). But in a weak
ago, 1974, I did enter a primary for State Senate, one won by my friend
Isabella. Fred went on to win the general election, only to lose
two years later to Jack Quimby, who in turn lost the seat now held for
by another friend, Hugh Farley. Hugh won the seat just in time, He told
he was restless on the Niskayuna Town Board on which we both served but
want to run for the
I had two deviant
ideas during that 1974 primary. The first was my public announcement
wouldn’t accept donations to my campaign of more than ten dollars.
Consequently, people figured that I didn’t need even that much.
The other idea I
still think a good one. Given that the Supremes had declared that
(but not federal Senators) and all state legislators of any stripe were
to “one person, one vote”—rotten boroughs” were summarily banned—I said
would be much more efficient and certainly far less costly to establish
unicameral legislature of, say, 100 members.
In addition to equality
of population, complete reform should require that each district must
compact and delineated by a non-partisan commission that is immune from
temptation to gerrymander. Just think, we could reach budget accord
with just two
men (or women) in a room rather than three.
Schenectadian, Erwin Shapiro, also ran in that primary of 33 years ago,
when I described my plan Erwin said “Ed, I hope that I will live to see
because it would mean that I’m going to live a long, long time.” And
still living, he’d still be waiting.
I do so declare.
Edwin D. Reilly, Jr. lives in