Corruption in Albany has become the background noise of our state politics. Scandals are followed by more scandals. Politicians start out as reformers, then somehow end up as part of the problem.
Which is why this week’s guilty verdict, on all counts, in the Sheldon Silver graft case is both breathtaking and depressingly familiar.
And once again, we’re left to ask: Could this be the catalyst that finally prompts real change in our corrupt capitol?
If the answer depended on our current governor to sweep out the muck, the answer would clearly be no. You had to smirk at Andrew Cuomo’s statement in the moments after the Silver verdict, in which he vowed “zero tolerance” for public corruption in one of the nation’s most corrupt statehouses. This from a man who disbanded his own Moreland Commission, the best shot Albany had in decades to clean up its own house.
No, our hope for change has to come from the outside, from the federal governemnt and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. For months, Bharara and his team have sensed that Albany was ripe for a takedown, and the Silver verdict proved them right. A win in the tawdrier trial of Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, which is going on in the same courthouse, would make it extremely unlikely that they would stop here. No doubt, even Mr. Cuomo is watching evens unfold with slightly sweatier palms.
With the verdict, Silver will be forced to step down from his assembly seat, even though he’s vowed to appeal.
Should we care about any of this? We really don’t have any choice. And if it takes the federal government to save us from ourselves, at least change is coming.