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Carla Palumbo Could be a Disaster in the 131st A.D.
Thursday, February 4, 2010  Rochester, NY -  If one can say anything about Ms. Carla Palumbo, she is a known entity in local Rochester politics and government.  And she deserves it.  Quickly, the short bio of Ms. Palumbo:

*  In her other job, she is the Director of the Civil Division, Legal Aid Society.
*  20-year resident of Glide Street,on the City's northwest side.
*  Served in the Monroe County Legislature, 2001-2007.
*  Graduate, SUNY Albany, Bachelor of Arts, 1979.
*  Graduate, Syracuse University, College of Law, Juris Doctorate, 1982.

And that's only a partial list of her accomplishments as a professional.  She also has significant experience on a number of local volunteer boards and organizations.  Carla could have made quite a bit of money as a private practice attorney, but she chose to enter public service, both as a legal advocate for those needing a voice in our expensive legal world and myriad system of courts; and, as previously mentioned, as an elected official.  She has earned her progressive-liberal stripes, yet also comes by them naturally. 

New Opportunities in the State Assembly Bring with them Questions of Temperament

The Honorable Susan V. John was first elected to the New York State Assembly (131st District) in 1990, the same year Joe Morelle made his ascendancy to that legislative body.  Yet unlike Joe, Susan doesn't need to be a 'career politician'.  Susan, like her possible successor, is also an attorney, but with a background in private practice law (Phillips Lytle, et. al.).  As we all are now aware, Susan John recently called it quits, and announced she will not run again for the 131st Assembly District seat.  And the scramble is on.

I will attempt not to cover journalistic territory previously combed over extensively by my co-owner, and fellow journalist, Aaron Wicks.  Mr. Wicks, in his usually thorough way, has mentioned candidates for Ms. John's seat such as Willa Powell, Harry Bronson, and I'm sure others.  But it is the candidacy (Palumbo has not yet officially announced) of Carla Palumbo that this article will focus on exclusively.  And therein lies the rub:  Fore one would be hard pressed to find a more qualified candidate to take the place of the very able Susan John, but Palumbo's advantages are too often intertwined with her foibles; among them being her tendency to be quick to anger, to be a 'back stabber' (I still have scars), and to show two distinct faces--one kind and bright, yet the other cold and calculating, and downright mean.

Errand Girl?

I never knew Carla Palumbo until she was elected to the Monroe County Legislature.  I had already been serving as a Legislator for several years by the time Carla entered our chamber, and the Democratic caucus.  Once a member of our caucus, it was immediately clear that Ms. Palumbo had done her homework.  She was a formidable rival to Democratic stalwarts like Kevin Murray and Bill Benet (and to be fair, H. Todd Bullard), two of the smartest and most capable Democratic legislators of that time (late 1990's-early 2000's).  Murray and Benet had the institutional knowledge that can be so crucial in any elected body, but they also possessed--especially Murray--natural intelligence, which made them invaluable to those younger and 'greener', like myself.  When I was first elected to the Monroe County Legislature, I was easily the youngest Democrat to serve at that time. However, County Legislators like Joe Morelle and Charlie Eber were significantly younger than I, when they were first elected to that honorable body (Eber and Morelle were in their early to mid-20's, while I was 33 the day I won my seat in the legislature for the very first time, in 1995).

Palumbo entered debates--in caucus and in the legislative chamber--with confidence and lucidity.  Being a woman is never easy in the old 'white boy' game of politics, but Palumbo never allowed that fact to inhibit her debate, or attempts at forging legislation, even though a Democrat in the Monroe County Legislature rarely had the votes to pass any bill, due to the fact that during my 10-year tenure, Democrats were a perpetual minority.  But Palumbo was undeterred, and would never say die.

However, despite her strength of character and intelligence, soon after her first electoral victory, I noticed that she was awfully chummy with the Morelle camp.  Back in those days, it seemed a Democratic County Legislator felt forced to align themselves with either the Gantt or Morelle camps.  Palumbo could certainly stand on her own two feet, and remain a non-aligned County Lej Democrat, but she chose Morelle, and he was happy to choose Carla.  One reason I got into trouble in the Democratic caucus, and eventually left the Democratic Party was because over time, I refused to align myself with either the Morelle or Gantt factions.  To be fair, there were other Dem's in our caucus that would not carry water for Morelle or Gantt; like Kevin Murray, Bill Benet, David Proud, etc.

But because newly elected County Lej Dem's like Palumbo and Jose Cruz were so heavily aligned with Morelle, open political and verbal warfare began to dominate the Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature.  And this caused me to lose respect for Palumbo and Cruz, among others.

The Non-Aligned, and the 'Ping Pong' Balls

Initially (though my independence could not be kept down) I was far more inclined toward the wishes and agenda of legislators above me, like Joe Morelle.  Joe and I had been friends since 1984, when we worked on the Gary Hart for President local campaign.  I became so close to Joe, that by 1989-1990, Fran Weisberg and Morelle put me on the campaign payroll, and I, among dozens of others, helped Joe win his first election to the NY State Assembly in November of 1990 (replacing a retiring Audra "Pinny" Cook).  The night Morelle won, we were all on cloud nine, and could not contain ourselves.  But that's the kind of charisma Joe had, and perhaps still has (I don't know the man any more).

Morelle's Marauders, as we called ourselves in those days, included pols like Kathi Smith, Kathleen Muzdakis, Denise Murphy, Patrick Morris, Lynda Garner Goldstein, Jill Lemke, Jim Plasterus (sp), Fran Weisberg, but of course, and many others. Working for, and with Joe was energizing, fun as hell, and seemed to satisfy our collective need for a real life expression of youthful idealism (most of us were in our 20's in 1990).  Joe was a smash hit in Albany, Rochester, and Irondequoit.  Despite our problems over the years, I have never regretted, nor will I ever, working for Joe, and helping him win state office for the first time.

But I was somewhat naive in those days, and I didn't realize the protocol of patronage until I was elected to office, and watched Joe and David Gantt jockey for position inside our caucus, where they clearly did not belong.

As previously stated, Palumbo and Cruz were unequivocally Morelle people, but so was the shrill and very unlikable Lynda Goldstein, and for a time, Stephanie Aldersley (Stephanie became a 'ping pong' ball, for a time bouncing back and forth between Gantt and Morelle).  And Gantt certainly had his die hard followers in our caucus:  Calvin Lee, Ronnie Thomas, the late Willie Lightfoot (?), and perhaps others that escape me after all these years.

And then there was Todd Bullard.  Todd was too smart and confident, as well as possessing a rugged independence, to align himself with anyone, other than, Todd Bullard.  But that's a complement to Todd, and not even a left-handed one.  Todd and I unseated Kevin Murray and Fred Amato in 1999, and took over caucus leadership for several years.  That's about the time I learned that like Todd, I needed to form an alliance, with---myself.  Like Todd, I carried no one's water, and no one had to carry mine.  But then soon after, Morelle got his hooks back in to the center of the caucus, and all hell broke loose (but that's another story I've already written).

Conclusion:  Palumbo's Capable, but is She the Wrong Kind of Democrat?

Carla Palumbo may indeed win the nomination, and/or a primary to succeed Susan John.  But if Susan John has been too beholden to the labor movement, especially the public employee unions, then Carla is still too beholden to the Morelle crowd. And that's awfully bad news, at a time when all Democrats in Albany must buck the high tax tentacles of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  And speaking of those who carry the water of others, and who are only too glad to run errands, Joe Morelle is all that, and more, for Sheldon Silver.

Can Carla Palumbo prove to her present (and future?) constituents that she is independent thinking enough to not be a shill for Morelle, Silver, and the public employee unions?  This is vital, because it is exactly these forces, and individuals, that continue to drive up state governmental costs, and thus state taxes, and drive young adults out of this state, and especially Western New York, where we are still a net population loser.  Palumbo has the high I.Q.  But does she have the pragmatic ability to cut the size and cost of state government?  Only her campaign literature and stump speeches--and time--will tell, along with her previous voting record in the Monroe County Legislature, and presently, on the Rochester City Council.  Carla deserves a chance to prove herself on the campaign trail, but be forewarned:  She is used to taking orders from the likes of Joe Morelle.

Christopher J. Wilmot,
Pittsford, NY

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Member Opinions:
By: Anthonymorelle on 2/4/10
I think that Carla Palumbo belongs "ping-ponging" between the County Legislature and the City Council. She doesn't have the spine to stand up for Upstate New York because she doesn't have a spine to stand up for herself.

I am sick of this woman constantly updating her resume at the risk of her taxpayers of her constituency. She belongs where she can do the least amount of harm for the least amount of pay.

Anthony Morelle
Rochester, NY

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