ALBANY - Leaders of the legislature's Democratic majorities were labeled "enemies of reform" Thursday by former New York City Mayor Edward Koch after they failed to sign pledges for the overhaul of state government.
Senate chief John Sampson of Brooklyn and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan were among 104 lawmakers not to embrace the agenda of New York Uprising, a group founded by Koch. It wants legislative district boundaries to be drawn by a nonpartisan commission, tougher governmental ethics rules and a better budget process.
Lawmakers signing the pledges totaled 105 - and were dubbed "heroes of reform" by Koch, a Democrat. Signers included all 29 Republican senators, led by Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre, and Assembly GOP leader Brian Kolb.
All the candidates running for governor, state attorney general and comptroller endorsed New York Uprising's agenda, including the frontrunner for governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
Though the pledge deadline passed at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Koch said he would welcome additional supporters but work for the defeat of non-signers in the fall elections. "Far too many candidates clearly want to keep our state exactly the way it is - they benefit from the corruption, the dysfunction, the insanity that defines Albany," he said. "They truly are enemies of reform."
Not true, shot back Sampson and Silver, who both criticized Koch for dismissing their reform efforts, such as the ethics bill vetoed by Gov. David A. Paterson and greater transparency in chamber proceedings. They also accused Republicans of blocking change when they controlled the Senate prior to 2009.
"For Ed Koch to call Senate Republicans 'reformers' and ignore our record undermines the credibility of the pledge and his entire campaign," Silver said.
Sampson added, "New Yorkers . . . deserve an honest debate from reformers who want to fix our problems, and not just chase headlines."
Skelos accused the Democratic leaders of breaking a budget reform law adopted in 2007 under the GOP majority. He said Republicans back a stronger ethics bill than the one vetoed by Paterson.
Forty-six of the 61 senators signed pledges while just 59 of the 149 Assembly members did so.
On Long Island, five of the 30 incumbents seeking re-election did not heed New York Uprising's call. Some accused Koch of threatening them while others said they respond to constituents' wishes, not those of interest groups.
"I don't sign pledges, I do legislation," said Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck), adding that she personally dislikes Koch. She, like other non-signers, is cosponsoring a redistricting bill that mirrors what Koch wants.
Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said the former mayor's "approach didn't lend itself to a thoughtful discussion of the issues. . . . It's a game and he's the host. I don't like that."