Volume 21, Number 15 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 22 - 28, 2008

Editorial

Time for a change: Squadron in State Senate primary

One of the disturbing things about Downtown politics is that incumbents just don’t face tough re-election battles. Although Lower Manhattan has many capable representatives who deserve to stay in office, they would nevertheless benefit from strong and serious challenges every few years. And there’s one legislator in particular, State Sen. Martin Connor, whom we have hoped for quite some time would face a candidate who offers a better choice. That day has finally arrived and that candidate is Daniel Squadron.

After winning a sparsely attended special election three decades ago, Connor has skillfully managed to hold on to his seat all of this time — but Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn have little to show for it. Frankly, we can’t remember a single important community issue on which Connor has led the way. Yes, he’s joined others on community issues like saving Pier 40 and St. Brigid’s Church — he can usually be counted on to write the right letter, support the community board’s position and show up to the important rally with the other elected officials, but he almost never takes the lead.

Squadron, who cut his teeth working for two of the hardest-working people in politics — U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner — has run an impressive campaign, and is surprisingly better versed on the issues than his opponent, who has been an Albany fixture for 30 years. Squadron is determined to reform the capitol and if the Democrats take control of the State Senate, we think he has a good chance to bring real change. He’s a smart, creative thinker and we agree with his argument that his victory over a former Senate minority leader, just by itself, will give wavering Democrats incentive to keep their promises.

There is not a lot of argument about what Albany needs — things like nonpartisan Senate and Assembly district lines and campaign finance reform to get big money out so challengers have a fair shot.

Connor, also a Democrat, argues he knows how things work and remembers all of the promises he and other Senate Democrats have made about the reform they’d enact if they ever got control. He told us he would hold press conferences to embarrass any of his colleagues who tried to back out of longstanding pledges. That has never been Connor’s style and he wasn’t able to give us an example of ever doing something similar when we asked him for one. In fact, he backtracked and said he’s not one to hold press conferences.

Squadron says give me two years and see what I can do. Yes, he is young and does not have a long résumé, but he has shown more than enough to prove he deserves a chance. It’s not much of a risk given the alternative.

On the issues, there are not big differences, but Squadron has better positions. His approach on mayoral control of the schools is right — renew it but give parents a stronger voice. Connor likes to rail against the problems of mayoral control, but he does not have a better system in mind and admits that keeping the mayor in charge may be the best option.

Both favor congestion pricing — an idea that thankfully looks like it will be revived. But Connor continues to emphasize the traffic plan’s negatives, whereas Squadron sees the potential to bond the traffic revenue to help close the M.T.A.’s overwhelming capital budget deficit. Connor speaks more favorably about bridge tolls, which is also a good idea but is a political nonstarter, and it makes us wonder if he is even serious about cutting congestion and raising transit money. Another of Connor’s ideas to raise transportation funds was to tax businesses more for hiring more people — creating the precise incentives you don’t want in tough economic times.

Unlike Connor, who is an election attorney, Squadron pledges to work full time as a senator and he has not taken any corporate or political action committee donations. Connor’s attacks on Squadron have generally ranged from the false to the misleading to the ridiculous. He says Squadron’s refusal to take PAC money from labor unions means he is against working people. Well, tell that to the Working Families Party, which supports Squadron and his pro-labor platform. Connor doesn’t even seem to realize that the logical conclusion to this line of attack is that his support for labor is tied to his union donations, and if the money ever dried up, so would his defense of the working class.

It sounds like someone who doesn’t understand what’s wrong with Albany.

Downtown Express enthusiastically endorses Daniel Squadron in the Democratic primary for State Senate on Sept. 9.




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