Today is the first day of Eliot Spitzer's quest to become the nation's first president of the Jewish faith. Whether he ultimately succeeds or fails in that endeavor will be determined by his recently won day job to right the badly listing state of New York. With that charge in mind, Elliott Spitzer took the oath of office just seconds into 2007 as New York's 54th governor.
Restoring faith and trust in one of the country's most corrupt and dysfunctional state governments will require all of Spitzer's legendary smarts, toughness and courage. Albany has been a feeding trough for every imaginable interest group. The well-healed, the well-connected and the well-organized have been enriching themselves at the expense the state's shrinking and beleaguered citizenry.
Crystallizing the corrupt mentality of Albany leaders, Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (Republican of Troy) in an unprepared remarks to members of the College of Saint Rose in Albany, berated the area's voters for expressing too little gratitude for his leadership in ratcheting up pork spending. The irony of that revelatory display is that he did to a group that was honoring him for his, cough, cough, "great leadership".
Spitzer is a progressive populist and has promised an administration that will take on the interest groups in its quest to serve the people. I'm hopeful that the super smart, white collar fighting, progressive with a populist streak, will do the right things, including stemming the hemorrhage of talent and jobs from the state, better managing the state's finances, and re-establishing the people's trust in New York government and the state's future.
One indication of Spitzer's commitment to a government for the people is in the make-up of his administration. Early selections indicate that the Spitzer government is serious about both diversity and competence. Spitzer chose David Patterson, the highly respected African America Senate Minority Leader, as his Lt Governor. Spitzer recently added the former head of the Hispanic Federation and a Member of the Board of Regents, Dr. Lorraine Vazquez-Cortez, as Secretary of State. And in perhaps Elliott's shrewdest appointment thus far, he named Long Island Republican Senator Michael Balboni, a security expert, to be his homeland security chief. This single appointment gives Spitzer's unusual leverage over a greatly diminished Republican State Senate.
While the promising Spitzer governorship may come too late for the millions that have been forced to flee that state, New York's current residents are already grateful.