The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Opinion

January 12, 2012

Governor needs to stay on point

I want to like politicians. I really do.

Most election days, I’m disappointed, but hopeful that whoever it is we duly elected will do their job and save the world — or at least our small part of it.

Candidate Andrew Cuomo scared me. After all, he’s a Cuomo. He’s his father’s son. And truth be told, his father is one of the large reasons I went to school out of state — with no real plan to ever return.

Life’s funny that way, and about 12 years ago, I moved back to New York. But that’s beside the point.

When Andy Cuomo was inaugurated as governor, I hoped that my earlier opinions on him were wrong. I hoped he would be a strong governor who would make good decisions and get us out from the fiscal mess that we were in and dysfunction that seemed prevalent in Albany.

Just over a year into the younger Cuomo’s first term, however, I’m beginning to think that either he doesn’t want to be governor or he has no idea what the job is supposed to entail.

Maybe I’m jaded, but from my perspective, the state of New York — with Andy Cuomo at the helm — accomplished only one thing in 2011. That accomplishment is the tax cap. And I say “accomplishment” in an ironic tone. The governor’s best idea of how to save us money in 2011 was to tell entities he didn’t control (school boards, towns, villages and cities) that they couldn’t raise taxes higher than 2 percent. That’s akin to petroleum companies holding a news conference to protest the price of milk and eggs. It would be laughable if it didn’t pass.

Last week in the governor’s State of the State address, Cuomo said he’s taking on a new job. He’s going to be an advocate for the kids. In fact, Cuomo went so far as to say that he’s going to be the only advocate that kids have.

According to the governor, school kids in New York state don’t have anyone looking out for their interest. Teachers are in it for teachers, he says. And school boards are in it for school boards. Thank goodness the kids have Andy to look out for them.

Understandably, this position was not favorably viewed by teachers and school administrators. In fact, many of them were rather irritated. And who could blame them?

A few years ago, county legislatures in the area jumped on this “schools cost too much money” bandwagon. It was much easier for them to complain about other taxing entities than to try to rein in their own. That talk seems to have quieted somewhat, and they’re back to complaining about state mandates — now that the state is focused on them.

My position with them was the same as my position with Gov. Cuomo. If you’re so interested in how school districts operate, give up your elected position and run for school board.

I’m not saying that our school system is perfect. But that’s beside the point.

There are more than enough problems that Andrew Cuomo could be focusing on that are actually under his control. Instead he’s doing nothing more than finger-pointing in order to shift the focus away from the heart of dysfunction in New York state — Albany.

Scott Leffler, night/city editor for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, has been in the local print and broadcast media for the past decade. His column appears every Thursday. Contact him at scott.leffler@journal-register.com.

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