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Short Takes – November 18, 2010

November 18, 2010

One of the frustrating things about the new governor is his tendency to make sweeping statements that he then expects everyone to accept as gospel.  A case in point is his insistence that he has provided more details on his plans for running the government than any other candidate ever. The reality is just the opposite. He hardly campaigned. He gave no major speeches. He did not subject himself to rigorous questioning on policy matters.  And his ballyhooed policy books were generalized statements of goals and aspirations — not detailed plans for running the government. If you doubt us in this regard, just read today’s article in the Wall Street Journal by Jacob Gershman, a quirky, but brilliant reporter, who talked to real policy experts who have been left wanting by Cuomo’s pronouncements to date.


Another bizarre thing about the new governor is the fact that the only reporter to whom he appears to be available is Fred Dicker of the New York Post. Cuomo routinely participates in Dicker’s Albany-based radio show where the dialogue is remarkably similar to Capital Connection, a program that featured Mario Cuomo and Alan Chartock more than a decade ago. Remember those dialogues in which Cuomo would ramble and Chartock fawn? The striking thing about Chartock then and Dicker now is the degree to which both men seem to need to be perceived as the friend and confidant and intellectual equal of the governor. We pine for more probing questioning from Dicker, but we know that if he tried, Cuomo wouldn’t appear nearly so often as a guest.


It hasn’t been a good run for Mayor Bloomberg of late. His staff was exposed by the New York Times for playing fast and loose with the facts in campaigns for public health initiatives. He went to China and made comments about trade policies that drew rebukes from members of his own party. And he botched the rollout of the appointment of Cathy Black as the city’s top education official. (The opposition here is more about him than her.) Third terms are always tough for pols. In order to be successful, the official has to rededicate himself to the fundamentals of politics – maintaining focus, being attentive and responsive, and working well with others. (See Chuck Schumer.)  We know someone very close to Bloomberg who fears that he is going in the opposite direction and “has no patience anymore for what needs to be done.”


The Catskill casino deal is getting beat up pretty good in the papers, and a lot of people think its DOA, but a key insider thinks otherwise. He says the deal may not have to come back to the state legislature for a vote because the site of the project was pre-approved in legislation passed in 2001. (The planners of the project, a couple of old Cuomo administration hands, really knew what they were doing.) Moreover, the insider says that federal approval, always so problematic in the past, may not be now because of the support and intervention of one Sen. Chuck Schumer.


It’s not likely that ordinary folks in the private sector will feel much sympathy, but there is a tremendous amount of anxiety in the ranks of state workers nowadays. Layoffs are occurring, some 900 by year’s end. And despite the rhetoric of the unions about it being “illegal,” this is just the first round of several over the next year or so.  In addition, there’s an extraordinary phenomenon that is just beginning. With the change in administrations in the Governor’s office and in the State Senate, there comes “the ugly time.” This is when the new bosses ask for everyone’s resignation and say: “You can submit your resume for consideration, but there are no guarantees.” This makes it easy for the new boss to get rid of people whose affiliations and loyalty might be suspect.  People in the private sector must contend with the vicissitudes of the business cycle, but they usually don’t have to endure the transition-related blood-lettings that occur in the public sector. From the mail room and steno pool to the counsel’s office and executive suite, people will do anything to keep their government jobs – not the least of which is rat out their co-workers as secret operatives for the enemy.




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