Monday, January 23, 2012

Of Parties and Punch Bowls

I have a friend who is close to the Cuomo camp. He tells me that while administration officials consider me to be “a sharp guy,” they are also wary of me.
My friend said: “They are afraid that if they invited you to the party, you’d piss in the punch bowl.”
For the record, I have never relieved myself in such a manner.
In fact when invited to a party I usually enjoy a flavorful draught of punch myself.
Now that this misconception is cleared up, I’d like to address the sentiment that underlies this colorful metaphor.
I do so in a constructive spirit. I want to say again – for the benefit of young Mr. Vlasto and others-- that I really want the Cuomo administration to succeed. In fact the party they’re throwing has been one to be proud of so far every bit as good as Mardi Gras.
However the party could come to a screeching halt if the guests think the punch is watered down or even worse that it’s just plain bad. Enough of the cheap symbolism. The punch is ethics and integrity, the bowl is the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics. I get that the powers that be have a desire to control things. Yes, control is important. It’s how you get things done. But it’s both an illusion and a delusion to think you can control everything.
Nowhere is this truer than with ethics enforcement. In this regard, I know that ethical transgressions are occurring in state government right now. I think they might even be happening behind those closed doors at JCOPE.
But the tendency of the legislature and the administration is to pretend otherwise. “No, not us. Not on our watch.”
What matters most is not that transgressions occur, but how they are dealt with when they do occur.
What the people in charge of the punch need to understand is that rigorous scrutiny and constructive criticism should be encouraged.
It’s on this point that I again make the point that good government groups are an appalling disappointment. They’ve been engaged and flattered by top Cuomo aides and the goo-goos have abandoned their responsibilities. They are supposed to be institutional skeptics. They are supposed to question everything. Instead, they are nothing but cheerleaders.
As for JCOPE, the group that is in charge of the punchbowl, they have floundered and substituted a weak batch of cool-aid cooked up behind closed doors for the flavorful punch we need and expected. What is worse is that they allowed Barry Ginsberg to give them the recipe for this weak cool-aid and now there are turds floating in the punchbowl.
But it isn’t too late to save the party. Dump the cool-aid, wash out the bowl and start a new batch of punch. If the punch is good I say laissez les bons temps rouler, if it’s weak cool-aid with turds floating on top the reader’s of this blog will know it quick enough.
And don’t worry about me; I won’t be pissing in the punch bowl. I’m just a food critic; it’s an essential component of good government.

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