23 Aug 2014
67° Mostly Cloudy

Avella: The First 100 Days

Former council member and current state Senator finds a much different world in Albany

Avella: The First 100 Days

It's a legislative agenda that includes term-limits, campaign finance reform and a ban on natural gas drilling upstate.

For any other politician, one might say that there was a clear chance of quickly getting overwhelmed on the job. 

But we're talking about former council member and current state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, who has spent much of his career as an elected official going against the grain.

However, even this longtime legislative maverick acknowledged that things worked a bit differently at the State Capitol — and that it would take a bit more time to fully adjust to the peculiar political culture of Albany.

"Some of my colleagues told me it would be a different experience than being in the City Council. They were well aware of the interaction I would have, especially with the City Council not being able to get things done," Avella said in a press meeting Thursday to discuss his first 100 days in office. "It's a much more cooperative group than what you would have expected, than what you would have thought. So it's democracy with a little 'D.'"

Camaraderie aside, Avella may still have a difficult task in seeing many of his legislative priorities become law. 

First, there is a Republican Senate majority led by state Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Nassau, who has balked at much of the reform agenda proposed by Avella and former Mayor Ed Koch, including and most pressingly, a proposal to set-up an independent redistricting panel.

And a second, but no less daunting challenge for Avella, will be fellow Democrats in the Assembly, many of whom view some reform measures such as and a proposal to ban the practice of "double-dipping" even less favorably than Republicans.

"We are a very diverse Democratic group. Some from conservative Democrats and some liberal Democrats," Avella said. "But we do try to work together. And I've gotten to develop some very good relationships — not only with the Democratic conference but also with the Republicans."

But some things have definitely remained the same, even with Avella's ascension to a seat occupied for decades by former Sen. Frank Padavan.

As was his practice in the City Council, Avella recently announced he would refuse his first and all successive payments on an annual $9,500 "lulu," or stipend given to legislative members for service on committees.

"I didn't open the envelope to look at it," he said of the check.

Share This Article