In NYC, politics takes turn for the bizarre

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By Greg Romberg

During the 1983 session of the Colorado General Assembly, state Rep. Arie Taylor of Denver introduced legislation to prohibit a person from holding more than one elected office at the same time. She was unhappy that Bob Crider was simultaneously serving on both the Denver City Council and the Denver Board of Education. The bill easily passed its first committee vote and appeared headed for passage in the House of Representatives when a freshman legislator from northwest Colorado, Dave Wattenberg, got up to speak.

“Representative Taylor,” he began, “I understand what you’re saying, and in a big town like Denver, it might make sense. But small towns are different. You need to have enough people willing to serve. Walden is so small, we have to take turns being the town drunk.”
After the House chamber erupted in laughter, and with no further discussion, the bill quickly died.
New York City is a little bigger than Walden, Colo., and yet the emergence of two disgraced former elected officials as candidates for public office has left me scratching my head. Former governor Eliot Spitzer and former congressman Anthony Weiner, both of whom left office under scandalous circumstances, are now running for city controller and mayor, respectively.
And while their indiscretions don’t automatically disqualify either man from pursuing elective office again, New Yorkers owe it to themselves and their city to ask how the lack of judgment that led Spitzer to patronize prostitutes while serving as New York’s governor or Weiner, while serving as a member of Congress, to text pictures of his genitalia to a young woman affect their qualifications to hold these important offices.
Voters always need to balance the things candidates say they believe with their records, experience and personal attributes. When a Spitzer or Weiner attempts to re-enter public life, they deserve a healthy dose of skepticism. Recent revelations that Weiner continued his disgusting behavior with another young woman, even after he had to resign in disgrace, should lead any thinking person to question his ability to be mayor. After being the butt of jokes and having to resign in disgrace, the fact that Weiner replicated the scandal suggests that his sexual compulsions, his total lack of appreciation of the consequences of his actions, and/or his demonstrated lack of even a semblance of reasonable judgment should disqualify him from being considered a serious candidate. The only thing more outlandish than Weiner believing he should remain a viable candidate for mayor is his wife continuing to stand by him despite his demonstrated lack of even the most rudimentary level of respect for her or their marriage.
There are more than enough people in New York for New Yorkers not to need to take turns being the town drunk. There are also enough people that they shouldn’t need to recycle their disgraced former elected officials, especially those who have demonstrated no capacity to learn from their mistakes and alter their future behavior.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.