My George Latimer Memories

Dick Hubert first met George Latimer after Governor Eliot Spitzer denounced Latimer for doing his best to cripple the appointment of an independent comptroller for New York State.

I have a memory of George Latimer doing his best to cripple former Governor Eliot Spitzer in the Governor’s then effort to clean up New York politics and the state legislature, and I can’t forget it – and neither should you. Because it is indicative of Mr. Latimer’s enduring character.

The time was early 2007. Every citizen in New York had just undergone the humiliation of seeing another top elected official resigning in disgrace – in this case, the Comptroller Alan Hevisi. Governor Spitzer, whose election I supported, was so determined to get an honest and competent replacement for Mr. Hevisi that he had the temerity to suggest that the selection should be taken out of the hands of George Latimer’s buddies in the Assembly, like Speaker Sheldon Silver, and handed over to an independent commission of former comptrollers. George Latimer successfully opposed that, and helped get a political ally of Sheldon Silver’s nominated and appointed (Tom DiNapoli).

Here’s how New York Times reporter Danny Hakim quoted the Governor’s reaction on February 13, 2007:

“I had supported George for the Assembly because I thought he supported reform, and I’m terribly disappointed to see both what he did, how he voted and what he has said,” Mr. Spitzer said.

I was angry and disappointed too, and as a constituent of Mr. Latimer’s I let him know in no uncertain terms. Surprised perhaps that his constituents were even paying attention, Mr. Latimer invited me to a cup of coffee at the Doral Arrowwood Conference Center, and when I let him know in no uncertain terms that what he had done was a stab in the back to his constituents, he told me quite simply that he had $300,000 in his campaign bank account..and to bring it on: he’d take on the Governor, anyone for that matter, because he had Shelly Silver and his special interest buddies in his pocket, and a financial advantage no one on the horizon could challenge. And that he did. Mr. Latimer has been a consistent creature of Sheldon Silver’s from the get go. Many a time, when a local official asked for Mr. Latimer’s help with an Assembly bill, I heard Mr. Latimer’s constant refrain, “that will cost me a pound of flesh.” Sadly, he hasn’t lost any of that unethical overweight baggage. He would do “Shelly’s bidding” and that of his financial backers, and damn the constituents. I will say this for Mr. Latimer. He has always said this with a friendly smile, all the while prepared to shove the Silver-Latimer knife in your guts.

In a once foolish attempt to point a way to being a true representative of his politically diverse District, I suggested to Mr. Latimer that he should start voting for his constituents, and if necessary, run as an independent so he could be his own man. Not a chance.

And so now we come to this election, where Mr. Latimer has relinquished his Democratic Party Assembly nomination to an equally unctuous potential replacement, Steve Otis, to run for Suzi Oppenheimer’s Senate seat, presumably to temporarily escape the clutches of Speaker Silver. Fortunately he faces a well-funded and talented opponent, Bob Cohen, who, unfortunately, is on the receiving end of the Latimer knife and now scurrilous tongue. 

Mr. Cohen deserves the support of every independent, Democrat, and Republican fed up with Albany corruption and mismanagement. And for that matter, that support should be extended to first time Assembly candidate Bill Villanova, running a vigorous clean-up-Albany campaign and sporting an ethically commendable record.

This community has had enough of George Latimer. Every informed Westchester voter ought to support his prompt exit from the legislative payroll by voting for his opponent. Bob Cohen, on November 6. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Aidan October 25, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Those school taxes are impacted by the cap and the pension decisions. The fallout finds its way into that bill. You're right about school taxes ... and the need to actually "cut" those budgets. But some of the power to do that is Albany based. That MTA tax favored by Latimer? Hit the schools. The pension vote boycott by Latimer? That will lift "some" of the weight ... but certainly not enough. Latimer was a party to these situations ... correct? Have you heard him champion the cause of local taxpayers with anything serious? It might be time to scrap the property tax in favor of a state-wide income tax ... and then a fair distribution of those monies so as to slaughter the educational segregation that takes place in this region. "Education by address" is perhaps the last untouched civil rights area.
Bob Zahm October 25, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Actually, the MTA tax was rebated to schools in each year it has been in place, a modification supported by George in the first go-round. But that would be correctly identified as a “nit”. The pension vote boycotted by George – for all reasons with which I agree – will – at some point – reduce some of the weight. But there will be no material impact for 10-15 years. That makes the reform of little more use than as a campaign platform position. And that’s how it’s being used. Just like the tax cap which has been accompanied by no meaningful reduction in state mandates – and even the Govn’r now says he doesn’t really care about mandate relief. I am personally opposed to eliminating the property tax as a funding mechanism because doing so would prevent me from providing more funds to my district - through a voter controlled tax mechanism - if I wanted to. While the current mechanism leads to significant differences in the rate of spending - within NYS and between communities in different states - it does allow the resident to decide (as opposed to the State) what they want from their schools and how much they're willing to pay to achieve it.
Aidan October 26, 2012 at 12:32 AM
"... it does allow the resident to decide (as opposed to the State) what they want from their schools and how much they're willing to pay to achieve it." I disagree. "Willing" is a whole lot different than "able" ... the inequities will continue. It's educational segregation ... with a sloppy wink at "separate but equal". True or not? And things will probably get worse at some point ... not just for poorer districts ... because what we have is unsustainable. You know that yourself. I agree about the mandates ... where was George? Any word on any repeal action? Loads of hot air ... not much to show for it. Was he in the fight about pension reform? Didn't see any sort of info explaining his energy there. I know he walked out ... supposedly in a moment of valor ... I'd prefer to hear of his efforts BEFORE the vote.
Dick Hubert October 26, 2012 at 12:52 AM
All: Just a reminder that at the heart of my post was a critique of Mr. Latimer's efforts in conjunction with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to sabotage any effort to appoint an independent Comptroller to replace the disgraced and corrupt Alan Hevisi. Then Governor Spitzer's denunciation of Mr. Latimer for this unconscionable political assassination still stands. Let us not forget that in all of this back and forth. It is the crippling of the effort to appoint an independent Comptroller that should be at the heart of denying Mr. Latimer further legislative employment. I can't imagine any reform minded registered Independent, Democrat, or Republican in this Senatorial District supporting Mr. Latimer's position on the independent Comptroller appointment or believing that it merits ongoing election to state legislative office.
Stuy Guy October 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
My Memories of Dick Hubert If Dick, whose commentaries I read here, and in the Westmore News letters, were an objective observer, I might put weight into things he says. But every time, he bashes DEMOCRATS and praises Republicans...therefore, I treat this treatise as another one of the many efforts by Billy, Aidan, and other conservatives to simply elect their boy, and to do so by constant criticism of George Latimer. The truly independent minded people I know are voting for George, even some GOPers who are voting for Joe Carvin and Bill Villanova. Geirge Latimer for State Senate. Far and away the best choice.


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