We’ve been on an edgy, cynical roll with our recent posts. We feel a little uneasy about it, but not enough to stop. That’s because we keep coming across information that makes us …well…edgy and cynical.
Here’s our latest strange experience. We were talking to a person who is placed very high in state government. We made an observation to this individual about this past week’s regional council awards presentation. The comment was complimentary toward the governor’s office. We said that the administration really knows how to put on a show. We weren’t being snide or backhanded – although we have occasionally thought that these annual events are over the top at times. Think of Maria Bartiromo MC-ing like it’s an Oscar Night ceremony: “And the winner is…” And think of Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy insisting that the governor’s regional council initiative is “the greatest initiative by the greatest governor in the greatest state.” But in this particular conversation with this individual, we weren’t going there. We were simply saying to that the administration is skilled at packaging and promoting its work.
Now prompted by our comment, our friend told us a very interesting anecdote. It was an exchange that occurred a couple of years ago in the governor’s office. Administration officials were discussing the merits of the new regional council approach. One top staffer said to another: “Giving the locals a say in deciding who receives state economic development assistance will be applauded, but what about the actual level of assistance? What are we doing with that? We’re driving more – not less – resources into local economic development, right?”
The other top administration official laughed and said: “Let’s hope nobody asks that question.”
It took us a moment to process what we’d just been told and then we blurted out: “What? You mean the whole thing is smoke and mirrors? It’s a big production to disguise the fact that they’ve actually cut the amount of money being spent on direct economic development assistance to communities? Really? Could that be? “Our source shrugged and sighed and said: “No one in the media has delved into it. It hasn’t been established one way or another because nobody has asked the right questions. But really, you guys (at NT2) would you be surprised by the answer?”
A rush of jumbled emotions then came to us. First, anger. We hate being duped and bamboozled. And for some strange reason, the object of our ire at that moment wasn’t Cuomo or his scheming staff, but none other than the kindly Bob Duffy.
“That obsequious, syrupy goof ball. That phony bastard. That son of bitch. That….”
And then we realized that Mr. Duffy probably doesn’t know anything about it. He just assumed, like everyone else.
And then (sheepishly) it occurred to us that we’re all at fault for falling for it. We all just assumed and we should have known better than to do that. It’s our job after all to be skeptical.
Now in this regard, in Saturday’s Albany Times Union, Matt Hamilton – a fine young reporter – begins to bring some scrutiny to this situation, but he gets bogged down in what can only be called parochialism. The focus of his article was that the Capital District didn’t receive as much as other regions of the state and actually has received less in successive years. On this point, while it is the responsibility of Matt and his editors to make such an accounting, we’d also hope that they’d do two additional things. First, they need to have some basic awareness of the fact that the Capital District has done exponentially better than places like Binghamton, Elmira, Newburgh and Utica in securing state resources. And second, they need to ask the broader question:
Is the whole regional council program a scam?
Perhaps now with this prompting, they will.