THE BLOG
09/28/2016 05:41 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

The Definition of Insanity

If you do the same thing over and over and over again and expect a different result each time, that is called insanity.

Our city and state government has officially gone insane for the past decade.

Last week's federal complaint against nine people in state government and its vendors is once again a sad spectacle that will only deepen the public's already low regard for public officials.

Put aside the insane and dispiriting race for president, and for a minute ponder our current state of affairs in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a take-no-prisoners executive who started out so promisingly in 2010 when he miraculously pushed through a same-sex marriage bill with bipartisan support (after delivering the first on-time budget in years), is now stigmatized by the indictment of his close aide and long-time friend and a group of prominent upstaters who thought they could feast off the Governor's "Buffalo Billion" initiative.

Cuomo began his tenure six years ago vowing to clean up the cesspool of corruption in Albany. Instead, the cesspool waters have risen and are now washing up all around him.

It is extremely unlikely that the Governor himself engaged in misconduct or was even aware that his closest aide was carrying out a Sopranos-like scheme to enrich himself and others.

But the Governor has missed numerous opportunities the past six years to clean up our government and eliminate (or at least mitigate) the chances that corruption will flourish.

The first, and probably most disheartening miss, was when Cuomo did not follow through on his pledge to implement nonpartisan redistricting. Why is this important? Because it is the fundamental underpinning of good government and true democracy.

As President Obama recently summed it up so perfectly: "In America, politicians should not pick their voters; voters should pick their politicians."

Why Cuomo abandoned his pledge to fix this remains a mystery. He should now redouble his efforts to make that a priority.

In addition, the Governor needs to lead the charge for dramatic campaign finance reform. The way the system works now, people and companies that donate to candidates, in essence own a piece of them. When elected, these leaders need to pay back these supporters in order to keep the campaign dollars flowing.

Huuuuge problem, as one presidential aspirant would call it.

It is well overdue that we get big money and corporations out of politics to drain the cesspool. These may be draconian, but the Governor should champion a number of bold reforms:

• Institute campaign finance limits and matching funds like the city has. The cap on donations from one person should be no more than $500 and it should be matched by a 6-1 program.

• No fundraising in Albany or New York during the legislative session from January-June.

• Eliminate the LLC loophole that allows one corporation to create multiple entities in order to circumvent campaign donation limits.

• if you have done business with the State or City in past five years, you may not donate. This would go for lobbyists and vendors so that we do not create a class of people who have unfair access to our leaders.

• Create an office of Chief Integrity Officer in state government. Independent of the governor. It will vet all appointees, audit the awarding of contracts and establish ethical guidelines for elected and appointed leaders. Put someone with a lifetime of credibility in charge of it initially like former Lt. Governor Dick Ravitch.

• Term limits for legislators. A decade is enough. Power for too long corrupts.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of what is needed to restore faith in our government.

Will our leaders finally listen or will they continue to watch the cesspool draw closer and closer to their knees?

Tom Allon is president of City & State. Questions or comments: tallon@cityandstateny.com