A Time for Change
by Aravella Simotas
May 25, 2010 | 3830 views | 11 11 comments | 94 94 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Albany has become the perfect portrait of corruption and dysfunction. It seems everyday a new scandal erupts onto the front pages of newspapers and, with each new story, average voters become more disenchanted and more apathetic towards their government. We must put an end to this.

As a candidate for State Assembly in Astoria, I have been traveling the district and talking to my neighbors in the community I have lived in my entire life. In a sympathetic tone, everyone asks the same question—“Why would you ever want to go to Albany?” The answer is simple—I want to go to Albany because I know I can make a difference for the community I love. I know I can help clean up the mess.

Because of Albany’s dysfunction, the significant problems faced by our state go unresolved. Our schools face a more than $1 billion budget cut, three Queens hospitals closed in recent years, further overburdening our remaining health care facilities, and special interests like the MTA run amok and operate as out-of-control bureaucracies by overcharging and under-serving residents. We need to reign in Albany and ensure that our state works for its citizens, not the special interests.

We should begin by holding our representatives to much higher standards. Too many Albany politicians have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, stealing taxpayer money to pad their own pockets instead of funding needy causes. Criminal penalties must be increased for those that break the public trust so that the message is clear that corruption will not be tolerated.

And when politicians are caught breaking the public trust, investigations must be undertaken by truly independent authorities rather than by colleagues and friends. It is time to force the fox out of the hen house. We need an independent ethics commission that will hold those who break the law responsible.

Accountability is also lacking among Albany politicians because voters are denied real choices on Election Day. Fair elections are a rarity in New York, where the current system allows the politicians to choose their voters by drawing their own districts rather than allowing voters to choose their representatives. That is why we need an independent redistricting commission to create districts based on what our communities need, and not politics.

Since money holds too much influence in the political process, we also need campaign finance reform that guarantees lower maximum contributions, stricter disclosure requirements, and public financing of elections to level the playing field. By making our redistricting and campaign finance systems fairer, we will ensure that the voices of New Yorkers are heard louder than the special interests on Election Day.

Albany has been allowed to abuse its power and authority for far too long. I look forward to the day when we are no longer ashamed of our government, but rather are proud it stands for us. In the Assembly, I will lead the fight to change the system and make state government accountable to the people once again. I hope you will stand with me and join the fight.

Aravella Simotas is a practicing attorney and lifelong resident of Astoria. She is a candidate for the 36th Assembly District.

Comments
(11)
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Gary Peirce
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June 01, 2010
I love all the bitter comments about Simotas. She agrees with the need for change but that is not good enough. Sounds a little suspicious to me.
Taylor Williams
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May 28, 2010
Interesting points. I agree that we need stringent reporting requirements. I think we also need to make sure that the politians are prevented from spending their campaign war chests on personal goodies!!
Lenteja Brown
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May 27, 2010
I agree with some of the above. I barely know her even though I've been living in Astoria for a lifetime. She only showed up on the scene in December or January, whenever it is her neighbor and old childhood friend Gianaris hand-picked her for the seat.

Ever since, it's been a domino effect where all the politicians fall into line behind her. How will she reform the same crowd that is endorsing her?

Some of them are great - Dromm, Maloney. But, Onorato? Granted, he won't be there when she gets upstate, if she gets upstate. But to accept the endorsement of someone who would outright deny equal rights to same-sex couples is despicable.

Good luck trying to reform the machine when the machine created you.
anonymous
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May 27, 2010
I'm happy we have a candidate who understands how to change Albany
grace_m
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May 27, 2010
Good op-ed. Now only if we can get Albany to listen.
Erica Milano
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May 26, 2010
How will Simotas "fight to change the system" when she owes the system for her very candidacy? Ever since she got the nod from the Party power brokers, Simotas has had plenty to say but her history and her actions just don't line up with her words.
George A. Mavros
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May 26, 2010
This is an incredibly hypocritical move by Simotas. Jeremiah Frei-Pearson has been talking about reform forever and suddenly Simotas is jumping on the reformer bandwagon (with no actual record as a reformer) and using her insider clout to get an op-ed so she can steal his thunder?

The incumbent-picked, special interest-approved candidacy of Aravella Simotas is a textbook example of why we need reform.
rina_walters
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May 26, 2010
I really don't see how a person who owes her candidacy to practically every incumbent in Albany is supposed to effect any change. Simotas is a product of the Party Machine and if she wins, she'll be owing her insider supporters a lot of favors. That just sounds like more of the same to me.
frances l mcdonald
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May 26, 2010
Good beginning, Aravella. We need to get the legislature to stop "buying votes". By the way borrowing money is not a sufficient solution neither are the "one time" tax increases on the "rich". By the way, what about the NYS tax break on government pensions, this is surely a conflict of interest by our government worker state legislature. The so called monopoly of union workers, government workers and the poor have become the burden of the middle income working class. We've all got to tighten our belts, sundown some handouts, and get with a new program. It may be politically unpopular, but we've got to live with it before the middle class takes to the road that leads out of state.
Demetrios
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May 26, 2010
It's time for action from some one who has grown up in our district and knows what we need particularly now with our economy's problems.

Christine S
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May 26, 2010
Great article. We need more leaders like you in Albany. I am an Astoria resident and you have my vote!