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In the video below, former New York state senator Seymour P. Lachman,  founding director of Wagner College's Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform, talks with Staten Island Advance political editor Tom Wrobleski about the Carey Institute and its purpose. (Recorded March 14, 2008)

The Hugh L. Carey Institute For Government Reform at Wagner College is named for New York’s 51st governor, whose two terms as its chief executive embodied the state’s history as a laboratory and incubator of ideas for reform that have often been adopted by other states as well as the nation.

In the late 19th century, Theodore Roosevelt entered political life as a member of the New York State Assembly, declaring that if the people desired the best government possible, the best people must be willing to devote themselves to public service. During the course of his career in public life, T.R. championed and enacted measures that improved urban policing and civil service — reforms that had significant impacts on curtailing political corruption and improving local, state and national governments’ delivery of services to their citizens.

During the first quarter of the 20th century, Alfred E. Smith became New York’s governor after many years of service in its state assembly. His tenure in Albany laid foundations for social welfare initiatives that subsequently served as models for national programs enshrined in President (and former New York governor) Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

At the start of a new century, however, New York is mired in stagnation. While there are pockets of economic growth and social vibrancy, particularly in its downstate region, the state is steadily losing population. Industrial manufacturing, both large and small, continues to move out of state and overseas. Agriculture remains depressed and ever shrinking. Many of the service jobs available to replace these lost employment opportunities offer lower wages and reduced health and retirement benefits. New York’s ability to address these threats to its future is stymied by what is widely regarded as the most dysfunctional state government in the nation.

Here are just a few of the dysfunctions that must be corrected:

  • Legislative committees in the state assembly and senate function in name only; the real power rests solely in the hands of the assembly speaker and the senate majority leader. Only if one of those two leaders OKs a bill does it stand a chance of being enacted into law.
  • Assembly and senate leaders give hundreds of millions of dollars in “member item” money each year to loyal legislators for distribution to local governments and nonprofit groups. The purpose: to secure the legislators’ re-election.
  • Assembly and senate leaders jimmy the legislative redistricting process to create safe seats for their supporters — and unwinnable seats for those deemed “troublemakers.”

Reform, in order to be implemented, requires that those who understand the need for changes have a sustaining institutional base that serves to generate, nurture and develop analyses and proposals. This is the central lesson of reform movements throughout American social and political history, from the Age of Jackson and the Progressive Era to the New Deal.

At this particular moment in our state and nation’s history, colleges and universities are the institutions best suited for conducting the studies necessary to shape and disseminate an agenda for reform:

  • The academic environment provides multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary resources for analyzing proposed reforms, as well as the impact of proposals once they are enacted.
  • The academic environment, with its ideals and traditions of rigorous and dispassionate nonpartisan analysis, is far better suited than any number of| ideological think tanks to lay the ground­work for developing a broad consensus of public support for reform proposals.
  • The academic environment is oriented toward creating multigenerational interest in the need to adapt proposals as conditions change over time.

Former New York Governor Hugh L. Carey was an honored guest at Wagner College's 2007 Commencement exercise, where he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, and delivered an address to the assembled graduates, their family and friends, and other honored guests of the college. Follow the link below to hear Governor Carey's doctoral citation and watch him deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2007.

Following the Aug. 7, 2011 death of former New York Governor Hugh L. Carey, patron of Wagner College’s Carey Institute for Government Reform, Carey Institute director Seymour Lachman was in high demand as a media commentator on the late governor’s life, having published the definitive political biography of Hugh Carey the previous year. A memorial page for Governor Carey was created, which includes descriptions of and links to the news stories to which Professor Lachman contributed.

Former New York state Senator Seymour Lachman, director of Wagner College's Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform, is much in demand for his insights into the way government works (and, sometimes, does not work!) in Albany and around the country. Follow the link below to view two examples.