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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“Participation 101

ALBANY, June 13 -- We’re in the homestretch of the Legislature’s 2011 regular session and the horse racing analogy sums it up pretty well. So let’s stick with it. Between today and the session’s June 20th end date, you’ll be reading and hearing about all sorts of legislative jockeying for position and, as always, plenty of pundits putting down bets on the issues that will cross the finish line.

So stay tuned while this year’s end-of-session nears. It’s going to produce some political theater, but hopefully, and more importantly, some good government. In the eyes of many Albany watchers, this session, my first as a state senator, has already been one of the more productive in recent memory. An on-time budget. The first year-to-year spending decrease in 15 years. No new taxes. No borrowing. Medicaid redesign. Ethics reform. All positive steps for New York’s taxpayers.

Despite all of it, though, there’s still a long, long way to go in the effort to turn New York around. So while this year’s session plays out in the coming days, it’s a good time to ask, Where do we go from here? Early last week Governor Cuomo again signaled the direction we’re moving in. Let’s first give credit where it’s due. Agree or disagree, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that this governor hasn’t fully used one of the singular powers of the governorship, the so-called “bully pulpit” or taking the case to the people. Because he has. It’s as simple as that. He’s relentlessly pushed a reform-minded agenda and seized this moment when most New Yorkers clearly want it.

During last week’s roll-out of an agreement on ethics reform, for example, the governor used the phrase “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” In other words, the foundation of these new ethics rules is this: the more the public knows, the better government becomes. That’s exactly the idea that has and will continue to drive the Albany agenda right into 2012. You can bet on it.

Another example. Under a recent Senate-approved measure , which I support, New York would join more than half the states in America that give their residents the ability to enact and amend laws through a process known as “initiative and referendum.” In short, citizens would be given a
greatly enhanced ability to place issues on the ballot for a public vote.

So that’s where we’re headed, in my view. More and more efforts to ensure greater and greater public participation in government. It’s likely to remain an enormously difficult era in government. A prolonged economic downturn means fewer and fewer resources available to sustain a government, at all levels, that’s become increasingly expensive. The choices are tough and painful, which means that people want their say.

So however this next week at the Capitol plays out, it’s far from done. We’re going to keep at it. We’re getting back to basics and more likely than not, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on who’s doing what in Albany -- and more than a few new chances to directly participate in the decision-making process. That’s good news.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869