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The Big Idea Award

October 24, 2014

The new in Andrew Cuomo’s new policy book is ….well… maybe it’s the broadband stuff or maybe it’s a commitment to spend a billion and a half upstate to complement the Buffalo billion.  It’s a good effort overall. It identifies solid policy goals in a full range of policy areas.  But is it bold or visionary? Not really.

That said, we’ll give him a bit of a break here because we know he’s capable of the big idea. The first term featured START UP, which we regard as a really creative initiative of the kind we rarely see in government. Many are withholding judgment on it pending an analysis of costs and benefits over time, and that’s a fair position to adopt.  Still, we can’t not be enthusiastic about the fact that nearly 50 high tech startups began in New York this year. Out of that 50, most of which are located at college campuses, there are going to be some real winners. To us it’s the first meaningful economic development program the state has had since the Erie Canal. The only problem with it is that there are at least half a dozen other states who will adopt similar programs in January. This won’t kill the program because we still have a huge advantages with locating start ups at our research universities, but it will mean there’ll be more competition.

Astorino’s big idea, interestingly, comes from his affiliation with the Catholic church. It’s an approach to the problem of unwed mothers that stresses the responsibility of parents.  This isn’t far from what Moynihan famously outlined 50 years ago. It is, indeed, a major societal problem. But coming after Ferguson, and simmering problems with chokeholds and stop and frisk in New York City, it doesn’t seem likely that this is going to win Astorino much support in the minority community. He is, in effect, telling people of color: “Never mind about those kids being gunned down in the streets by cops, you need to do right by your baby-mamas.”

Add the recent comments of Astorino’s running mate and you have a bigger problem for both the gubernatorial ticket and Republican Party writ large.  Republican LG candidate Chris Moss said that the Rockefeller drug laws should be brought back.  Moss is a black man who is the sheriff in Chemung County.  How strange it is that he would be so clueless to what the majority of the minority community has felt for so long – which is that those drug laws were incredibly harsh and unfair. He went further and said that too many jails are being closed. There’s a photo of him making the comments. He’s surrounded by white folks.

In the recent gubernatorial debate, Astorino accused Cuomo of “playing the race card” in talking about a federal housing discrimination suit. If Cuomo really wanted to do that – he’d play up these two positions by Astorino and Moss in the minority community.

This brings us to Howie Hawkins, who is the clear winner of the Biggest New Idea Award. To see how and why, you simply must visit his website

He’s talkin’  free college, living wages, free mass transit, all solar energy, worker cooperatives, state takeover of banks and more. It’s kind of semi-socialist Utopia on the Hudson led by a guy who talks like a Cracker but who really is a progressive visionary.

And the great thing about Howie is that he doesn’t do the disingenuous thing and pretend that the revenue to do all these things will just magically appear. Nope, he proposes an answer: Tax the rich. Big time. He’d cut taxes for 95 percent of New Yorkers, and dramatically raise them on the top 5 percent of earners.

And here’s the kicker: Large chunks of Howie’s big idea agenda are actually doable. It would remake New York. It would really be a different place. Would it ever.

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