Say this about Governor Cuomo: He is not one to dampen expectations. Having delivered tax reform, gay marriage and new union contracts during his first year in office, the governor is looking for even bigger achievements in his second year—which happens to coincide with state legislative elections. Albany’s traditional embrace of the status quo is never tighter than when legislators are up for re-election, which makes the governor’s ambitions even more notable.
Increasingly it seems like New York, which we sometimes think of as a world leader in governmental dysfunction, may well be a shining city on a hill when compared with Washington, D.C.
Even as Albany continues to bask in the glow of a newly passed tax reform package, even as the city sets a course to leadership in the 21st-century economy, the folks on Capitol Hill simply cannot put aside their partisan bickering for the good of the country. Doing so risks further damage to a less-than-robust economy, and thus making life worse, not better, for those individuals and families still suffering from unemployment and underemployment.
For a moment over the weekend, it seemed as though Washington was about to take a page from Albany.
Planes Trains & Automobiles
Charles Komanoff, the hound of Manhattan traffic, penned an interesting column yesterday for Streetsblog arguing that the Occupy movement had the potential to bring congestion pricing back to life.
After all, the protesters, with their message of pervasive inequality, arguably helped put enough pressure on the Cuomo administration to embrace some form of higher taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. Why couldn’t some form of populist support do the same for tolls on East River bridges and the subsequent boost to clean air and mass transit that would come with it?
Members of Albany’s second-largest public employees union, the Public Employees Federation, clearly had second thoughts about challenging Governor Cuomo over wage and benefit concessions. Mr. Cuomo said that if P.E.F. didn’t accept $450 million in concessions, he’d have no choice but to lay off 3,500 P.E.F. members.
At first, P.E.F. basically told the governor to do his worst. Perhaps members thought Mr. Cuomo was bluffing, which, if nothing else, shows that the union is not necessarily blessed with keen political insight. Mr. Cuomo was not bluffing. When that became clear, the P.E.F. basically ordered up a do-over. Members have now voted overwhelmingly in favor of the deal they rejected just over a month ago.
That’s good news for many people, but most of all for the 3,500 P.E.F. members whose jobs have been saved by the second thoughts of their brothers and sisters. Apparently there is something to be said about “solidarity forever,” after all.
Governor Cuomo promised to make Albany, including the governor’s office, more transparent and accessible. With the introduction of a new website, publication of his daily schedule and on-line chats, he is fulfilling that promise—although full transparency in Albany remains an elusive but necessary goal.
Mr. Cuomo hosted his first on-line chat on Sept. 24 (with the help of his fast-typing press aide, Josh Vlasto), answering questions from citizens on a range of political and personal topics, from the future of the Indian Point nuclear plant to his affection for the Executive Mansion on Eagle Street. The session may not have produced any startling exchanges, but it did show that Mr. Cuomo is serious about embracing 21st-century technology to keep in touch with his constituents.
Planes Trains & Automobiles
Transportation wonks have a habit of talking about Jay Walder, the outgoing head of the M.T.A., in messianic terms, as though he were the only man capable of fixing the agency’s myriad problems—an aging system, run by intransigent unions, with almost no political support. While many of them have greeted his resignation with shock and concern, there is a growing sense that this could actually be the best thing to happen to the M.T.A. since Mr. Walder’s arrival two years ago.
“I guess I’m partly responsible for inflating the importance of Jay,” said Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign and dean of transit advocate.
Indeed, there have been others—Richard Ravitch, the team of Kiley-Gunn, even Mr. Walder’s predecessor, Lee Sander—who have done a lot to resurrect mass transit from the death throes of the 1970s. Mr. Walder, though, was different. He had moved from McKinsey to run London’s transit system, introducing successful innovations, including the vaunted oyster card, which speeds up bus and Tube boardings, as well as implementing that dread scourge, congestion pricing. He was supposed to bring the same innovation and ingenuity to New York.
“You have to hope it’s a wake-up call to the people in Albany,” blogger and M.T.A. kremlinologist Benjamin Kabak said.
Here’s the program for the May 7 show in Albany, where reporters will roast the lawmakers they cover. Along with seeing colleagues in uncharacteristically formal attire, I was looking forward to seeing Andrew Cuomo’s response to the show. (He has, already, demonstrated an ability for using multi-media tactics to make a point while Read More
In a welcome break with tradition, state legislative leaders have agreed on a budget before, rather than months after, the start of the new fiscal year, on April 1. What’s more, the budget they accepted actually cuts overall state spending. Do you believe in miracles?
The budget cuts will not be painless. Mayor Michael Bloomberg Read More
Andrew Cuomo, who has taken his budget barnstorming around the state, makes the case to New Yorkers who couldn’t make it to Rochester or Hempstead or Binghamton with a video delivered from the Red Room, which he calls the most beautiful room in the entire state Capitol.
Cuomo tries to pin the prospect of a Read More
Domestic violence continues to plague far too many homes even as crime rates outside the home continue to decline. Worse, many of the perpetrators are repeat offenders who escape the harsh punishment they deserve.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance wants elected officials to give him and his colleagues the tools they need to crack down Read More