Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Civic Forum:

NYCivic will be hosting a Civic Forum, "The Future of the MTA," on WEDNESDAY, July 15, at 6:30 pm. The talk will be held at the Museum of the City of New York, at 1220 Fifth Avenue, between 103rd and 104th Streets.

Panelists include Councilperson Gail Brewer, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul White, and New York Post columnist Nicole Gelinas. NYCivic's Henry J. Stern will be moderating the event.

Please RSVP by calling 212-534-1672 ext. 3395, or write to

Caroline Kennedy

Would Make a Cool

Lieutenant Governor

By Henry J. Stern
July 8, 2009

Day 30 of the Blackberry Turnover brings smoke signals that the hissy fit in the Senate is close to some kind of resolution, for better or worse. Not every peace treaty is a good one, though. Recall what followed Versailles.

The so-called “Cuatro Amigos,” who have destabilized Albany Democrats for a month now, say that if no agreement is reached by tomorrow (Thursday), they will impose their own solution. If either party accepts their yet unknown offer, it will have 34 votes to put it into effect. It is more likely that the Republicans will accept than the Democrats, since they are a more united and purposeful group, they submit to stronger leadership, and, like the Assembly Democrats, and they want to preserve as many staff jobs as they can. Having controlled the Senate for 43 years, the Republicans have hundreds of hungry mouths to feed. And this is no time to go out and look for work.

Today Governor Paterson speaks at 5 p.m. on the Senate impasse. He would be wise to follow the advice of Citizens Union and appoint a Lieutenant Governor, or announce that he will do so if the Senate fails to organize itself. An imaginative choice for this office would be Caroline Kennedy. Here's why:

First, Paterson owes Kennedy a big one after subjecting her to embarrassment the last time around.

Second, she provides diversity (to him) in race and gender, and what could be as important in today’s political world.

Third, she knows almost as much about state government as Paterson did when he was chosen as Governor Spitzer’s running mate in January 2007. More important, she is likely to surround herself with very capable people. Great staff is a Kennedy family tradition.

Fourth, if history is any guide, the most she will have to do is break ties in the State Senate, which will probably be rare once the current dispute is settled. If by any chance, she should become Governor, she just might be superb.

Fifth, like the Napoleonic rulers in Europe, she has ties to other notable elected officials in the state. Her former cousin-in-law is New York State’s attorney general, and he might feel less disposed to run against both the state’s first African-American governor, whose running mate would be a widely respected woman who possesses both Kennedy and Bouvier DNA. Sadly, only her children share that distinction with her.

Sixth, her first cousin, Maria Shriver, is married to the governor of California, the nation’s most populous state. Although they also have a massive deficit, we are aware that businesses with liquidity issues sometimes merge in the hope that the new combination will carry them through their trials. Sometimes it works.

Seventh, another of her cousins, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was lieutenant governor of Maryland some years ago. Although she lost her race for governor, she proved that a Kennedy woman could handle the office of lieutenant governor with dignity and grace.

Eighth, she is a graduate of Harvard College AND Columbia Law School, and therefore a potential candidate for New York State Attorney General, if she should come to have a grievance against any other candidate for the position.

When her father, President Kennedy, appointed her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, as Attorney General of the United States, he was asked by the press why he had done so. He replied that he wanted to give his brother a little experience before he went out to practice law.

Ninth, since Caroline Kennedy withdrew from consideration for the Senate appointment, people have had nothing but good things to say about her. Accepting this position would give all of us a chance to test the sincerity of those who spoke so well of her when their own ambitions were not at issue.

Tenth, although we are guided by Rule 19: “Be kind to man and beast,” we cannot refrain from observing that other prospective Senate tie-breaker, Senator Pedro Espada of the Bronx, apparently has a variety of legal issues, his residence, his poverty program, his HMO, etc. Although he is entitled to the presumption of innocence and we may assume that the numerous allegations are the baseless complaints of political and economic rivals, it will take a great deal of time and money for the Senator to defend himself, and that could detract from the time necessary to break a tie.

Eleventh, and most important, she is a competent and intelligent person, a “wise gringa” who has shown her interest in public service. She would be able to influence other senators and make friends for New York State, which is in urgent need of help. She would be loyal to the state in which she was raised, and which her wonderful mother chose as a home for her family.

Time is short. Governor Paterson will speak late this afternoon. If any of you care to offer any other reasons why, in your opinion, Caroline Kennedy SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be appointed Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York, please let us know as soon as possible, so we can share your thoughts with the public.


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