New York is in the midst of a budget crisis. Arguably, in fact, broke. So broke that Governor David Paterson wants to raise taxes and fees 137 different ways. That’s why we find news that reached us from a friend who works in state government quite galling.
It seems that Deborah VanAmerongen, Paterson’s Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal (who he inherited from his disgraced predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, who inherited her from Andrew Cuomo’s HUD), sent out the email quoted below to Department of Housing and Community Renewal personnel:
>>> Deborah VanAmerongen 1/14/2009 1:12 PM >>>
"Next Tuesday, January 20, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our nation's 44th president. To mark this truly historic event, I have arranged to have the inaugural ceremony broadcast in our Hampton Plaza, Beaver Street and Gertz Plaza offices. The event can be viewed in the Hampton Plaza ballroom, the 5th floor conference room at Beaver Street and the 6th floor lunchroom at Gertz Plaza, beginning at 11:15 a.m."
Now, we’ll concede that the inauguration is an interesting event. And no doubt some government employees would like to watch it. However, what we can’t quite grasp is why, in the midst of what Paterson & Co. have portrayed as a financial meltdown for New York State government, Ms. VanAmerongen is going to toss away money on something frivolous like this. (Never mind our sneaking suspicion that, had Senator John McCain won the presidency, she’d see it as neither a “truly historic event” nor deserving of taxpayer-subsidized live streaming throughout her agency’s offices).
Incidentally, our contact inside the Department of Housing and Community Renewal has assured us that DHCR disables all streaming video and audio on its computer servers normally. So, this would seem a truly historic event inside DHCR as well.
With New Yorkers staring at a $15.4 billion deficit that they must close to keep the state fiscally stable, using state workers’ time and taxpayers’ dollars to run what amounts to a partisan victory lap would seem to be just more of the same from the Paterson Administration.