THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Got a wish? Be careful

SO ANYWAY, the guy I call “Tough Guy Andrew” is fighting for his political life. His enemies list grows and grows. At the very top of the list are members of the state legislature, of both parties, who are in a serious get-even mode. It seems that they are very concerned about Andrew Cuomo’s behavior. Yeah, that’s a good one. Sort of like Whitey Bolger being named to head his state’s ethics committee. No matter what you think of Andrew and his predicament, it is interesting that the legislature seems to be intent on getting its pound of flesh, to which I can only say, “Be careful what you wish for.”

The first thing you have to know is that people hate the legislature. Most people think that the legislature stinks like old fish. Yes, it’s true that many of them might like their individual legislator, but it is as American as apple pie to hate the state Assembly and Senate, for good reason. I used to ask my classes what their parents said about the legislators and almost always, the response was, “They’re all a bunch of crooks.”

That has been the case for a long, long time. Don’t get me wrong—there are some wonderful people in the legislature, but the institutions are too often morally corrupt. I’m not talking about “go-to-jail” corrupt, although some should consider the idea. Nope, I’m talking about the idea of democratic, representative (as in re-presentative) government which has been corrupted and people know it. They aren’t stupid. Give the folks at home a choice of whom they have more respect for, the legislature or the governor, and while such polls may show some temporary changes, most folks see the two houses as a sort of bordello in which the well-heeled call the shots and the folks in the barrel get screwed. We all know about lobbyists, the handmaidens of the folks who really call the shots. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Remembering Dr. Alan Miller

DR. ALAN MILLER HAS PASSED. He died at 99 and if I remember correctly his father died at almost that exact same age. Alan, the long-time commissioner of mental hygiene in New York under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, was a personal mentor who made public radio station WAMC what it is today (best in the nation). He was a viola player and he cared as much about classical music as almost anything else in life. He was a board member at Camphill Village, one of the most exciting projects in the country.

He used to tell me about his dad, a dentist who, in his later years, grew depressed and called his son the doctor almost every day. Finally, Alan told his dad that he had to get out of the house and do things with his friends. Eventually, the father agreed to go to a baseball game but upon arriving at the stadium, he died. It became a favorite joke between Alan and me that he would live forever but he should never go to a baseball game.

Miller had a tough job. As commissioner of mental hygiene, he had to preside over a vast network of mental hospitals that were being depopulated. He was sensitive about that period and about the investigations that were motivated by the personal aggrandizement of some reporters. None of this was really his fault. President Kennedy had called for funding of community mental health centers that were envisioned to be free standing and independent, but which were frequently scooped up by the major hospitals. If you took people out of the hospitals and sent them to independent mental health centers, things might have been far better. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. The plight of the mentally ill in New York and in the country at large continues unabated. Read more…