Less than a week after defecting from the Democratic Party to vote with the Republicans up in Albany on new leadership for the legislative body, Monserrate has returned to the fold, if you will, and now says that he will again vote the Democratic line, leaving the State Senate deadlocked at 31-31, which makes things even more confusing than our great-grandfather’s handwritten recipe for bathtub Night Train he devised during the Great Depression. (Oh, if only in these rough economic times we could decipher the directions to that magic elixir!)
Monserrate is doing his best to save face and not look like he caved in to the intense pressure he was apparently feeling from his supporters, labor unions, and the Reverend Al Sharpton (we know we wouldn’t want that guy calling us day and night trying to change our mind – that could drive anybody nutty). The rogue senator is spinning his “prodigal son” return as the culmination of a grand achievement to enact reform up in Albany.
(For those of you unfamiliar with Albany politics, a word of caution that what you might take to mean “reform” has a completely different definition once you are on the hallowed grounds of the State Capitol. You might take reform to mean sound fiscal policy, innovative approaches to health care, and general across-the-aisle cooperation to benefit the state, when really the most startling “reform” in upstate politics in the past few years is when they tried to change the Wednesday menu in the legislature cafeteria from meatloaf to chicken fingers. A Quinnipiac Poll found that state legislators preferred chicken fingers to meatloaf by about 3 to 1, but when then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno tried to attach a rider to the bill to officially change the menu that would have okayed a new stadium for the New York Jets on the West Side of Manhattan, Sheldon Silver had the bill stalled in an Assembly committee. To this day, legislators suffer through an arguably overcooked slice of meatloaf every Hump Day.)
Back to Monserrate: the state senator claims that by embarrassing the Democratic leadership, said leadership has seen the error of its ways and will now support important legislation that Monserrate backs, which they previously had been lukewarm on. Now, we realize we don’t possess the acute political acumen of our esteemed representatives in the State legislature, but from what we know of Albany politics, grudges are not easily forgotten. Something tells us that Malcolm Smith and his cohorts are paying lip service to Monsey’s demands now, but that Monserrate has about as much pull up in Albany now as one Olsen twin in a tug-of-war contest.
(In the interest of setting the record straight: last week we said that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee defended Monserrate against cries that he should step down at very nearly the same time he was switching parties. In fact, the DSCC forwarded a blog post from March that criticized state senators Frank Padavan and Martin Golden for urging Monserrate to give up his post, citing the example of Joe Bruno, for one. So they weren’t officially supporting him last week, but Senate Democrats did back when the assault charges were announced, and now the DSCC is just forwarding an email. Truthfully, we’re totally confused.)
Anyway, one of the most interesting things about this whole debacle has been the reaction of Monserrate’s former colleagues in the City Council, especially the ones from Queens who had to try and work with Monserrate.
Last week, we noted that Eric Gioia used Twitter to point out that both Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx – Monserrate’s co-conspirator – could end up in jail soon. And then last week, Councilman John Liu, whose district abutted Monserrate’s former council district and had to work with him on all sorts of issues, not the least being the Willets Point rezone that Monserrate threatened to derail, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I can’t say I’m totally shocked that Hiram is in the middle of all this. I personally think he’s having the time of his life.”
Pol Position recalls attending a meeting organized by Monserrate of 32BJ union members to show support for a bill that would require developments that use government subsidies to hire union members, such as doormen and janitors, to work in the buildings once they were completed.
At one point, the legislators in attendance (which were, in fact, Gioia, Monserrate, and Liu) were asked to sign their name to a petition supporting the legislation. Monserrate had clearly failed to mention that this would be part of the evening’s festivities to Liu, who was obviously misled into attending and visibly upset.
To his credit, Liu said he couldn’t support a bill he didn’t know enough about, which was a pretty stand-up move considering there were over 100 booing union members in the room who are used to getting their way (just ask Monserrate now), but would promise to give it careful consideration in the future.
(In case your wondering, a) this will be the last parenthetical aside in this column, and b) Gioia signed the petition, but he was once a member of 32BJ when he himself worked as a doorman, so his support was understandable, whether he knew about the petition beforehand or not.)
We wonder if Monserrate is still enjoying that spotlight?