A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 10, 2008
“New York’s legislature is the most dysfunctional in the nation” (Brennan Center)

New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice issued a 2004 report, The New York State Legislative Process: An Evaluation and Blueprint for Reform, by Jeremy M. Creelan and Laura M. Moulton. The report was widely discussed as defining New York State’s legislature as “the most dysfunctional in the nation.”

Those exact words do not appear in the report, although the word “dysfunctional” does appear. A July 21, 2004 newswire was headlined: “Report: New York’s Legislative Process Most Dysfunctional in Nation.”


Wikipedia: Brennan Center for Justice
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School is a progressive, non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on issues involving democracy and justice. The Center’s mission states that it is “dedicated to strengthening democracy and securing justice, through law, scholarship, education and advocacy.”1
The organization is currently headed by Michael Waldman, who served as Director of Speechwriting for President Bill Clinton from 1995-1999.
(...)
New York State reform
In 2004 the Brennan Center released a report calling the New York State Legislature the most dysfunctional in the United States. The report received national attention. The organization followed up on the report by representing Lopez Torres in a court case that challenges the way trial judges are selected in New York. Attorneys from the Brennan Center will defend the challenge before the United States Supreme Court in the fall of 2007.

Brennan Center for Justice
THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS:
AN EVALUATION AND BLUEPRINT FOR REFORM

JEREMY M. CREELAN & LAURA M. MOULTON
BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE
AT NYU SCHOOL OF LAW
http://www.brennancenter.org
Pg. vii:
New York State’s legislative process is broken. This report documents five key weaknesses and compares New York’s process with those in other state legislatures and in the U.S. Congress. Together, the problems identified here deprive New Yorkers of the government they deserve. Indeed, New York’s legislative process limits legislators’ consideration of legislation – whether counted in hearings,
debate, amendments, readings, conference committees, or even simply legislators’ presence when they vote – far more than any other legislature. Neither the U.S. Congress nor any other state legislature so systematically limits the roles played by rank-and-file legislators and members of the public in the legislative process.
Pg. 1:
It has become something of a cliché to bemoan Albany’s dysfunctional legislative process and the “three men in a room” system of lawmaking. Virtually every major newspaper in New York State has editorialized for many years against the current system and its byproducts, including perennially late budgets, the lack of open deliberation and debate, empty seat voting, gridlock, costliness and inappropriate payments, incumbency protection, or the extent of control exercised by the two leaders. In addition, a handful of academics and policy analysts have explored various aspects of the legislative process in greater depth and proposed reforms to improve the system. Certain state legislators have proposed thoughtful reforms to their chambers’ rules, and others have complained behind closed doors about their lack of input into the legislative process.

US Newswire
Report: New York’s Legislative Process Most Dysfunctional in Nation; Statewide Campaign Launched to Reform Legislative Process.
(From US Newswire)
Byline: Ali Velshi
To: National Desk
Contact: Jeremy Creelan, 212-992-8642 or 917-693-9620, or Natalia Kennedy, 212-998-6736 or 718-930-7624, both of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
NEW YORK, July 21 /U.S. Newswire/ - A report released today concludes that New York State’s legislative process is the most dysfunctional in the nation and recommends a package of reform…

New York (NY) Times
A Failing Grade for Albany
A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. called New York’s State Legislature the most dysfunctional in the country. PAGE B1
(...)
New York (NY) Times
So How Bad Is Albany? Well, Notorious
By MICHAEL COOPER
Published: July 22, 2004
Over a five-year period, 11,474 bills reached the floor of the two houses of the Legislature in Albany. Not a single one was voted down.

And during that period, from 1997 through 2001, the Legislature held public hearings on less than 1 percent of the major laws it passed. When those laws made it to the floor of each chamber for a vote, more than 95 percent passed with no debate.

Civic groups, policy advocates and even some lawmakers have long rolled their eyes at what has become known as Albany’s ‘’dysfunction.’’ But a study released here on Wednesday by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law illuminates just how bad the problem is, calling the Albany body the least deliberative, most dysfunctional state legislature in the nation.

‘’Neither the U.S. Congress nor any other state legislature so systematically limits the roles played by rank-and-file legislators and members of the public in the legislative process,’’ the study concluded.

The report, which compared New York’s Legislature with those in the 49 other states, found that Albany represents the worst of all worlds, being at once stiflingly autocratic and strikingly inefficient.

New York (NY) Times
New York’s Fake Legislature
Published: July 25, 2004
The most galling part of watching the New York Legislature in action is the sight of thousands of students innocently touring the State Capitol. Their teachers are usually telling them about how democracy works, how Teddy Roosevelt and Al Smith once roamed these very halls, how Mr. Bill becomes Mr. Law in Albany. In reality, what these crowds of young people see is men and women on public salaries, going through the motions. The whole place might as well be made out of cardboard.
(...)
The Brennan Center report concludes that on most important counts, New York has the worst legislature in the country—one that deprives the public of any real representation, because legislators obey their leaders more than voters. The people have almost no access to the real process of lawmaking, which goes on behind closed doors among the two leaders and the governor. And it is inefficient. We have only to look at this year’s stalled budget to see a glaring example of inefficient autocracy.

New York (NY) Daily News
THE WORST LEGISLATURE IN AMERICA
Sunday, July 25th 2004, 6:57AM
New York taxpayers spend $200 million every year to send 212 politicians to Albany as members of the state Assembly and Senate in the expectation that they’ll be represented in something that vaguely resembles a legislature. You know, a body like you see on C-SPAN or in civics textbooks.

New York’s Legislature is nothing of the sort. Instead, it’s an entrenchment of oligarchies in which all power is concentrated in the hands of two individuals, the speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate. Everyone else - 210 elected officials, your elected officials - has no say over anything.

By aggregating ever greater power in the posts of speaker and majority leader, the Legislature has dropped all pretense of debate, compromise and individual empowerment. It’s by far the worst, most anti-democratic legislature in the U.S., as documented in an invaluable report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

New York (NY) Times
Metro Matters; Once Powerful, Party Idles On Sidelines
By JOYCE PURNICK
Published: July 26, 2004
(...)
And in a state where the Legislature was just judged the most dysfunctional in the country by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, gets his share of criticism for his role in perpetuating Albany’s gridlock.

New York (NY) Times
A Method to His Madness
By HERBERT D. ROSENBAUM
Published: August 1, 2004
IS Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, on a suicide mission?
(...)
Tom Suozzi’s timing in taking on Albany could not be better. The illusion among many New Yorkers that their state government was operating effectively was shattered last month when the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law came out with a report showing that New York had the least deliberative, most dysfunctional state legislature in the nation.

New York (NY) Times
New Political Tactic for State Races: Everybody’s a Reformer
By JONATHAN P. HICKS
Published: October 22, 2004
(...)
Politicians and analysts attribute the interest in reforming Albany partly to the study that declared the New York Legislature the most dysfunctional in the nation. That study, released this summer by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, has been widely quoted and is no the topic of many campaign speeches.The report noted that the two men who control the Legislature, Mr. SIlver and Mr. Bruno, have almost total power over which bills they allow their members to vote on, as well as a wide range of sticks and carrots to help them keep their members in line should a lawmaker buck their wishes.

The Albany Project
New York’s State Legislature is the Most Dysfunctional in the Nation
by: pontificator
Sun Dec 03, 2006 at 16:45:07 PM EST
New York’s State Legislature is the most dysfunctional in the nation.  This is not hyperbole.  This is fact. 

In an exhaustive 56 page study, The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law illustrated in depressing detail how truly F-ed up our State’s Senate and Assembly have become.

The entire study can be read here.  (warning: pdf).

The short version - individual rank and file legislators have no power.  Senate and Assembly committees have no power and serve no purpose.  Everything, and I mean everything, is decided unilaterally by the State Senate leader, Joseph Bruno, and the State Assembly leader, Sheldon Silver.  And it’s all done secretly.  Simply put, the old Soviet Union’s Politburo was more of a Democratic institution than the New York State Legislature.

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