Andrew At The Bat
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
with apologies to Ernest Thayer
The outlook isn’t brilliant for New York State this year;
The Governor does not see and the Legislature does not hear.
And when the budget did not pass, in an economic woeful fate,
A sickly silence fell upon the residents of the State.
A few got up and moved elsewhere in the land. The rest
clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Cuomo could but get a whack at that –
They’d put up even odds, with Andrew at the bat.
But the legislature blocked progress, with incumbents on the take,
Silver had the power and Sampson perhaps a fake;
So upon the stricken multitude grim melancholy sat;
For it seemed that little could be done, even if Andrew held the bat.
First there was the election, where the people had the call,
But no matter who won it, wouldn’t the legislative process stall?
Corruption and fundraising infected every Albany sinner,
Partisanship and self-interest always seemed the winner.
Then from the millions of residents there rose a lusty swear;
It rumbled through Catskills and rattled in Times Square;
It pounded on Long Island and recoiled here in Queens,
It was Cuomo, mighty Cuomo, could he fulfill our dreams?
There was ease in Andrew’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Andrew’s bearing and a smile lit Andrew’s face.
And when responding to the voters, he had his father’s grin,
No stranger in the State could doubt, he was there to win.
Millions of eyes were on him as he traveled around the State.
A majority of voters were for him and Duffy his running mate.
An Election Day triumph for the next Governor of New York,
But could he get the Legislature to walk the reform walk?
Now the Election over the true test he finally found,
Could he bring the State reform and turn the economy around?
Could he get the Legislature to stop the partisan hate?
Andrew, mighty Andrew was finally at the plate.
Now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Andrew stood a-watching it expecting Albany to play fair.
Close by the sturdy Governor the ball unheeded sped —
”That ain’t my style,” said Cuomo. “Strike one!” the Speaker said.
From the State filled with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the reform-waves on a nearby New York shore;
”Kill him! Kill the Speaker!” shouted someone in the land;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Cuomo raised his hand.
With a smile of political charity great Cuomo’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; bade the Legislature on;
He signaled to the Senate Leader, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Cuomo still ignored it, and the Speaker said “Strike two!”
”Fraud!” cried the maddened citizens, it’s “Legislative Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Cuomo and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
They knew that mighty Andrew wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Cuomo’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Andrew’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children clap;
Will it be New York joy or the same ol’ legislative crap?
Cuomo Would Pick Ticket, Seeks Pledges for Reform
By HENRY STERN
By HENRY STERN
Day 64 - without a budget
Readers of this column know that for the last several years, our reports on New York State government, particularly its legislature, have conveyed a pathetic picture. Some legislators are now convicted criminals, another is being sued by the Attorney General, some are under investigation, and it would be no surprise if other miscreants are found who have so far escaped the attention of law enforcement authorities.
We have repeatedly stressed the need for a stringent code of ethics, stricter regulation and full disclosure of outside employment, an independent redistricting commission and fiscal responsibility, starting with a balanced state budget. We have not seen progress in any of these areas.
A mild ethics bill, which would have been a starter for reform, was passed by both houses but vetoed by Gov. Paterson on Feb. 2, ostensibly on the ground that it was not strong enough. Since the bill had passed by overwhelming margins, it was assumed that the veto would be overridden. However, the Senate Republicans, who had voted for the bill, chose to sustain the veto, so now there is no ethics bill, but everyone can claim that they voted for it. To us, this is classic Albany hypocrisy.
That is why it was such a pleasant surprise to hear Andrew Cuomo’s remarks to the convention accepting its nomination.
He came out for every reform we have advocated, denounced the legislature as having lost the people’s confidence, and demanded fiscal responsibility without imposing additional taxes. Signs posted at the convention announced the “New Democratic Party.” It is clear that Andrew Cuomo is running against the Spitzer-Paterson years as well as the legislature.
His partner in this undertaking will be Mayor Robert Duffy of Rochester. Cuomo’s selection of Duffy as his running mate for lieutenant governor has met with general approval. On the basis of press reports and a Google search, Duffy appears to be highly regarded. A career police officer, he rose through the ranks to become chief of police in 1998, a position he resigned in 2005 to run for mayor. He received 72 percent of the vote that year and was unopposed for re-election in 2009.
Duffy has a reputation as a strong leader, unafraid to take on public employee unions. He sold the money-losing fast ferry service across Lake Ontario to Rochester for $30 million. He is now engaged in a struggle with the United Federation of Teachers with regard to his effort to take over the public school system, similar to the fight that Mayor Bloomberg successfully waged in New York City.
Introducing himself at the State convention, Duffy affirmed his commitment to Cuomo’s reform goals and asserted that he was ready to fight.
The question we ask ourselves is: Is this too good to be true? Is it possible to have a reform-minded governor who is also of sound mind and has shrewd political instincts? We are reminded of the concept of ‘The lion and the fox.’ This was the title of a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt by James McGregor Burns published in 1956. Professor Burns’s source was the Florentine philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), who wrote, in The Prince:
“A prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”
Andrew Cuomo has roared like a lion, and raised the hopes of New Yorkers, many of whom, as opinion polls show, hold their government in contempt. But in Albany, he will be dealing with a skulk of foxes, and he will have to protect himself and his program from the bites and snares of those who are responsive to nurturing lobbyists, obedient to legislative leaders, and desirous of remaining in their gerrymandered districts.
New York State has been spending more than it has taken in for years, and while the cumulative deficits have been concealed by one-shot revenues, the alteration of payment schedules and other bookkeeping devices, the day of reckoning is not only at hand but past due. The candidate has not yet told us what he would cut, but there is a Willie Sutton answer. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton is supposed to have said that he did so because that was where the money was. The big money in the state budget is in Medicaid and education. If there are major cuts, these areas will be impacted.
The Medicaid program is known to have been exploited by substantial fraud and waste. The difficulty, of course, is finding out just where the fraud and waste is, and being able to prove it. That requires vigorous enforcement, and more serious penalties, including prison, for those caught cheating.
In education, we know that some teachers are very good and others are bad. The problem is that it is very difficult to treat teachers differently based on their competence. Also, ability and interest change over the years, sometimes for the worse. This is not to say that teachers, in general, are responsible for students’ learning difficulties. We remember from our childhood those teachers who were helpful, kindly, and, in some cases, inspiring. But one should be able to get rid of the bad ones without years of litigation.
Even if every bad teacher retired today, however, there would still be resource issues, questions of class size and costly special education mandates. Hard choices will have to be made between competing needs.
A governor who commands respect, who makes first-class appointments, who decides issues justly and wisely, who is judicious in his public statements, and who maintains a high standard of personal conduct, will have much more influence and gravitas than one whose behavior can be faulted, who is vulgar or crude in speech or manner, whose remarks are intemperate or inappropriate, and whose appointments smack of favoritism, nepotism or cronyism.
We had high hopes four years ago for Eliot Spitzer. We were disappointed. Our hopes for David Paterson were more modest, but they were also unfulfilled. The Pataki Administration pitched three balls. Spitzer & Co. struck out twice. Andrew Cuomo is now at the plate. When he tries to do the right thing, he will find enemies on and off the field.
We do not know how the contest will end, but we do know that, this time at least, the forces of reform are at bat. Armed with knowledge of the failures of the past, they go forth to battle for the future.