Editor’s Note: The following is an opinion column submitted to the Ithaca Voice by Ann Sullivan, a member of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.
As always, we are eager to reprint alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To submit a guest column, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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After a week of vacillation, Dean Skelos announced his resignation as majority leader of the NY Senate yesterday. Like most New Yorkers, I breathe a little easier, knowing that a man fighting multiple felony charges no longer holds sway as one of the “three men in the room” in Albany. Senator Tom O’Mara who represents the NY Senate 58th district (and most of Tompkins County including the City of Town of Ithaca) also must be feeling particularly relieved. Because of Senator Skelos’ announcement, O’Mara avoided taking a public stand defending or condemning his disgraced former Majority Leader.
What explains Senator O’Mara’s curious silence regarding Skelos? While originally reluctant to condemn Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver earlier this year, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton soon called for his resignation. Senator Seward, Tompkins County’s other senator, let the chips fall and forthrightly told his constituents that he supported Dean Skelos, despite the indictments. Alone among these Tompkins County state representatives, only Senator O’Mara maintained a public silence regarding his caucus leader’s fitness to lead, sticking with his original statement that “These are serious allegations…” Even after Skelos resigned, Senator O’Mara refused to mention the former Majority Leader’s criminal indictment, instead issuing a statement praising the Republican Senate conference and criticizing “this New York City Democrat-oriented government”
The residents of the Southern Tier deserve more than silence from Senator O’Mara. Whatever pressures his colleagues might have placed on him, taking a stand against political corruption should be a minimum qualification for public office, even in the swampland of Albany. How can we expect meaningful action on any reform in Albany, when our own Senator was too cowed to speak out? We residents of the Southern Tier deserved more than weak-willed silence from Senator O’Mara.