Bruno, Silver, Pataki Outta (Rent) Control

If you're worried about rent control, ask not what Joe Bruno can do to you, ask what George Pataki can do to Joe Bruno. For the answer, visit the memory-site of Ralph Marino.

Ralph Who? Exactly. He has been "disappeared" like an Argentine dissident. But he was the "all-powerful" Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate until Pataki beat Mario Cuomo for governor.

Marino's sin: He gave only lip service to Pataki in the race. So Joe Bruno made his bones on Marino's political grave. Pataki told Marino it wasn't his day no more, and within six months Ralph Marino retired from the Senate.

And today, a media consensus as strong as rent insists that Joe Bruno of Rensselaer holds the keys to the apartments of more than 2 million tenants in New York City and its suburbs. If Pataki can't move Bruno off his "free-market" course, rent regulations will expire June 15.

Believe that, and honest wrestlers rule the world.

Joe Bruno, created by George Pataki, holds Pataki's feet to the fire, we are told. Not to mention the hands of Alfonse D'Amato, who put Pataki in the governor's mansion and Bruno in charge of the state Senate.

And Rudy Giuliani, the Republican mayor of New York, is portrayed as a weak, sad pleader to Joe Bruno on behalf of the middle-class tenants of our city.

The great Joe Bruno, who at the snap of Pataki's fingers would be the late Joe Bruno, sitting on a cloud with Ralph Marino.

But the only man who can save rent control in New York is said to be Sheldon Silver of the lower East Side, the speaker of the New York State Assembly.

The Big Three, according to the press, are Bruno, Silver and Pataki in that order. These guys rule, and no matter how we feel about the merits of rent regulations, we are powerless to change this reality.

Democracy? Forget it.

Such is the assumption on which all dialogue on rent is based, and all dialogue on state government, if you want to face the truth. We are being told that we are governed by an oligarchy of party bosses who run the state as if we were still under the British monarchy.

Do I exaggerate? Well, consider that the British Parliament runs under a system of party discipline wherein no member can vote his or her conscience without being thrown to the wolves. This practice is nowhere written in the New York State Constitution but it might as well be, the way things have worked here for the past hundred years.

Upstate Republicans run the Senate, downstate Dems run the Assembly. With rare exceptions, this has been the rule, and it has served both parties beautifully. The apple-knockers upstate have kept the downstate cities, particularly New York, from getting what they need to live well, while the city slickers have run the farmers off the land upstate. Thus the line: We can't do anything for ourselves, we can only veto good lives for each other. The two parties against the people.

It works only because we buy the myth of no parties, of no bosses. We are told every day that party bosses are a thing of the past, that it all ended with the New Deal when Tammany could no longer provide turkeys on Thanksgiving, thanks to FDR. And again and again we're instructed by the pols and the media that money rules, that the guys and dolls who have dough to buy TV time overrun the parties and get elected by themselves.

So we wake up today and hear that Joe Bruno runs New York City. That George Pataki may, if we're lucky, stop him from having his say over our lives.

And all the good government people, the goo-goos who we rely on to protect us from such violators of democracy, never question what the hell the Brunos are doing here in the first place, never ask who elected them to decide our fate.

One man, one vote, we say, and roll up the flag. And then bow to three men, no vote.

They won't throw us out of our apartments, because that will throw them out of office. But if we don't stand up, we'll forever be out of the game.

Original Story Date: 041797
Original Story Section: Opinion