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Columns

May 15, 2010

Internship offered insight into the real work of Albany

I recently concluded an internship with Assemblyman Marc Butler, and felt compelled to share my experience and thoughts with the community.

I have had the unique opportunity of being on the inside of state government at a time of great uncertainty. The budget is now more than a month late; we have several elected officials who are facing scandals and controversy; and critics are stepping up their call that New York's is the most dysfunctional legislature in the United States.

While we are facing tremendous challenges and numerous cases of corruption among elected officials, I can argue that any blanket term is both unfair and uninformed.

My professor, Dr. Helen Desfosses, makes the argument that politics and politicians are not "four-letter words." This notion that politics is a dirty word that is only associated with bad things is something the media and public have created.

I would make the argument that human nature has created corruption in all businesses and all areas of life. The mistakes made by a few politicians are then magnified on a much larger scale, because that is the spin the media wish to portray. Athletes often make mistakes, but society still tells our youths that it is all right to dream about becoming a superstar athlete.

Our society and media take the time to denounce the actions by a few politicians, but the same blanket statements are not applied to all athletes. Why don't we teach our youths that it is all right to be a politician and to make our state and country a better place?

I can not speak to all members of state government, but I can speak about the official for whom I interned, and the official who represents me at home.

Assemblyman Marc Butler has the third largest assembly district in New York state in terms of geographic size. The 117th spreads over Herkimer and Fulton counties, and a portion of Otsego County. Through my internship with him, I have been able to watch firsthand the amount of time and energy that good people devote to government.

While some may argue that the "bums" in Albany take long weekends off, these same people forget that being an assemblyman does not end when the assemblyman leaves the capital. Butler has two district offices, in addition to the office in Albany.

I have seen a person who has stood up for agriculture, jobs in upstate New York, state parks and historic sites. I have seen a person who has stood up against commissioners on important budgetary issues. I have seen a person who gave back almost $30,000 in member allowance in an effort to do his part of reducing spending.

I have seen a person who puts in countless hours attending and supporting events around the community and in the district. I have seen a person who has to spend days at a time away from his family and sleep in a hotel room. But most importantly, I have seen a person.

I came to this internship with the career goal of becoming governor of a state someday. I am leaving this internship with a much greater grasp on the challenges of being a politician and the responsibilities that come with the title.

Government is an important function of our state and our country. At the end of the day, someone has to be a politician, and it is a shame that we as a public make it undesirable. It may be easy to clump all assemblymen and senators together and say that they are terrible and throw them out of office. But I urge everyone to take a step back and really take a look at what is going on. Look past party lines, look past biased news, and make a decision for yourself.

It has been amazing to see members of the community come into Butler’s office and voice their opinions on issues that really matter to them. It has been even more impressive to see the assemblyman truly listen and voice these opinions on the political stage.

It has been a pleasure working for the assemblyman, and I strongly believe there is no one who could do a better job representing our community and our interests. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to work side-by-side with the state official that they elected. That is why I am sharing my thoughts with the community in the hope that everyone takes the time to become an informed voter.

Clarke, of Cooperstown, is a graduate of Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School and a senior at the State University College at Oneonta.

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