Monday, May 24, 2010

Cuomo Hits All the Right Notes

Andrew Cuomo launched his bid for NY State governor by hitting all of the right notes-something that we foreshadowed earlier this year: “Which is why we believe that a tax revolt may be on the horizon-even in as liberal a state as New York…That is, unless we get a new sheriff who can use the current crisis to implement a new governing paradigm. And the talk we heard from Andrew Cuomo the other day surely looks like the kind of approach we're talking about. As Liz pointed out last week: "AG Andrew Cuomo sounded a distinctly pro-business and centrist note at a Tuesday night fundraiser organized for him by Republican supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, according to an attendee at the event..."It was almost as if he was reading the tea leaves of some of the results in Nassau and Westchester counties," said my source. "He talked about lowering the cost of government and business, how we can't be taxing people in the middle of a recession. It was the right tone for the time, and the right tone for a business audience."

And Cuomo stayed true to this theme in his announcement over the weekend. As the Wall Street Journal reported: “New York State is upside down and backwards; high taxes and low performance," he said. "The New York State government was at one time a national model. Now, unfortunately, it's a national disgrace."

And forget the Ravitch borrowing plan: “For the first time Saturday, Mr. Cuomo unveiled a tough stand on the state budget crisis. New York faces a deficit of more than $9 billion, and the budget is now nearly two months overdue."I do not support the current plans for the state to borrow as much as $6 billion to pay operating expenses. We must reduce costs, not raise them," he says in the video. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Mr. Cuomo planned to freeze state worker salaries and introduce a state spending cap.”

This is indeed good news-and Cuomo’s public support for government retrenchment is an indication that he’s willing to say what needs to be said, no matter what the audience. The outstanding open question, however, is whether he can alter the dysfunction that he so eloquently has castigated.

Josh Greenman of the NY Daily News, wonders the same thing: “In fact, the smart money is all on Andrew. Like it was on Spitzer in 2006, like it was on Hillary Clinton in 2008. Which is to say: The odds are he'll successfully position himself as an anti-Albany crusader. The odds are he'll win. And the odds are he'll lead with authority. But as Spitzer and Clinton proved, the best-laid plans can unravel.”

But Greenman also lauds Cuomo’s ambitious agenda-and the dire need that New Yorkers have for a caped crusader: “Ever since our last would-be savior got his cape caught in his own zipper, with his socks on, New York State has been holding out for a hero. We're staring at a $9 billion deficit and saddled with a political class that always covers up red ink with gimmicks, tax hikes and borrowing - never tackling the chronic spending beneath it all. Meantime, a steady stream of corruption scandals has made the worst legislature in the nation look even more deplorable. We've watched Gov. Paterson, well-intentioned though he may be, bumble his way through, played for a chump. No chump is Andrew. He's got charisma and political skill to spare and is using them to run against All Things Albany.”

So, in our view, this is an auspicious beginning-Cuomo is boxing in his potential Republican opponents with a fiscally conservative approach that the state really needs. When you add the Augean Stables theme about corruption into the mix, you have a dynamic head start on a successful campaign.

But Albany has proven to be resistant to real substantive change in the past, in order to alter the status quo dynamic, Cuomo will need all of the skills that he has learned up until this point-but, even more so, he will need to have the galvanized support of New Yorkers. The reform of government effort, in order to achieve the kind of success that the state needs, must enlist grassroots New Yorkers-the homeowners, tax payers and small business owners-so that the sword wielding chief executive can impress the political class that the changes being sought are those that the voters want desperately to be implemented.

Now we find out (and we read this after making the point), that Cuomo plans to do just that-as the NY Times reports: "Borrowing a page from Barack Obama —and a consultant in new media, Stephen Geer, from Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign — Mr. Cuomo wants to create a cadre of grass-roots activists to pressure lawmakers from the bottom up, backed by an advertising campaign that aides said would focus more on Mr. Cuomo’s platform than his already well-known biography."

Wow, great minds, and all that; a lethal combination of a charismatic crusading governor and a fed up public, that will be able to really shake things up and turn NY in a direction where we will, in Cuomo’s words, have a government that we all can be proud of: “We're tired of seeing New Yorkers victimized by corporate greed on Wall Street," he said. "We're tired of seeing New Yorkers victimized by government corruption in Albany. We're tired of seeing New Yorkers leave the state because they can't pay their taxes anymore."
And by doing so, Cuomo steals the kettle right from under the tea party-an example of imitation flattery: "You start with the assumption that you were supposed to go through them,” Mr. Cuomo said of lawmakers at a news conference in Manhattan after the parade “I don’t start with that assumption. I think you do it the other way around,” he added. “I think you go to the people first, and you get the people on your side. Not just on your side generically, but you get the people supporting a specific set of reforms.”

Let’s hope that he can galvanize the public in this manner, and lead New York out of its unsustainable morass.