Volume 22, Number 54 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 21 - 27, 2010
Silver jokes, then plays role of critic
BY John Bayles
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver addressed members of the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association at its annual breakfast last Friday at the Embassy Suites in Battery Park City. It was not his first time to speak at the event and he wasted no time getting to straight to the point.
“At previous events, I have told audiences that my role is that of the critic. In that capacity, I am compelled to repeat a few of the harsh words I said at last year’s breakfast,” said the speaker. “I am fed up with the stalling. I am weary of the recalcitrance and tired of the absence of a clear and steady focus from leadership at the highest levels of our government.”
He remarked on the “gaping hole” and called it an “embarrassment,” and then said, “And that’s all I am going to say about the state budget process for the time being.”
The audience laughed.
But that was it when it came to joking around and soliciting laughs. Silver quickly turned to criticizing the Obama administration on two fronts: allowing federal funding to run out for 9/11 treatment programs for the first responders and cutting anti-terrorism funding in the wake of the Times Square incident that once again paralyzed the city with fear and reminded the country that NYC is far from safe.
“The fact that federal funding for 9/11 treatment programs is running out or still being worked out is unconscionable and the frustration and outright anger is only exacerbated by the Administration’s decision to slash critical anti-terror funds to New York City,” said Silver. “New Yorkers are still reeling from the attempted terrorist bombing in Times Square and the clear message it sent is that we remain a top target of violent extremists. I ask you to join me in calling on the White House to reverse this decision and to restore fully the funding that this city so desperately needs to keep its citizens safe.”
The speaker then turned his attention the state budget and reminded the audience that it was indeed no laughing matter even though he’d joked about it earlier.
“I and my Assembly colleagues are ready to pass a budget and have been ready to act for some time now. We believe that the executive budget proposed by the governor is unduly harsh to our school children and to the City of New York.”
Silver noted that many people are of the opinion that as Governor Patterson’s days are now numbered in Albany, he might be afraid of becoming “irrelevant” when it comes to future political ambitions.
“I believe that as long as he or she has the bully pulpit, a governor can be as relevant as they choose to be,” said Silver.
He then turned his attention to the other side of the aisle.
“The Republican minority in the Upper House will vote ‘no’ on anything and everything. So, we need all 32 Democratic votes in the Senate to achieve at least a two-way agreement. When you put 32 to the test of unanimity in an election year, you empower each one individually to be a game-changer, and therein lies the rub,” he said.
Silver called it the perfect storm. He said New Yorkers were frustrated.
Then he added, “And so am I.”