Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

All Quiet Along This Front

21 Sep

Anyone else notice that nobody is complaining about anything anymore?

Drawing courtesy Sven Yrvind at http://www.yrvind.com

Let me be more specific. While Washington is more shrill than ever, we here in Buffalo and Western New York seem to be more sedate. We’ve followed Jules’ advice and chilled this mother out. Not hope (false or not) for the future, but not resignation and apathetic despair either. Just . . . even keel. Whether this break is a lull, a calm before the storm, or more long lasting is impossible to know. But locally, nobody seems to be too riled up, and this is in stark contrast to the last decade.

Maybe it’s because the lightning rod projects have finally drawn towards a conclusion. Mark Croce, by all accounts, is pouring real money into the Statler and bringing it back. That was the last item in the Silver Bullet checklist of Buffalo. The Peace Bridge second span is dead. The Seneca Casino downtown is morphed into a smaller project, sans hotel, that seeks to embrace businesses in the growing neighborhood. Canalside is poking along, and most citizens seem more interested in enjoying sunshine on the water and a new concert series than get worked up over a couple hundred grand to over-priced Fred Kent and company. The Medical Campus adds new buildings every couple months, and UB 2020 has passed in an abbreviated form; the ink had barely dried on Cuomo’s signature and already the silence was deafening from all sides, for and against. Even Benderson’s “lifestyle center” on Maple died with a whimper. The next Silver Bullet checklist is currently being drawn up – for now it only includes new bridges across the Buffalo River to connect the Inner and Outer Harbors. Perhaps the collective bile will rise as new projects are added. 

Maybe it’s because the instigators have faded away, in victory, defeat or irrelevance. Paladino has mostly kept his turds out of punchbowls since his drubbing. Williams is out as Buffalo Schools Superintendent, Simpson is gone from UB, and Quinn from the ECHDC. I haven’t heard Tim Tielman’s name in months, and Goldman faded as quickly as the paint job on the Adirondack chairs. Esmonde took a (partial) buyout and no one except the insiders care if Lenihan follows the governor’s career advice or not.

Maybe it’s because shoes have yet to drop. The HSBC pullout from Buffalo seemed inevitable earlier in the year. Now First Niagara has a branch network and hockey arena to its name, and the first round of global HSBC cuts have passed us by unscathed. The tower HSBC occupies is in danger of emptying (Phillips Lytle moving two blocks if nothing else), but the main leases there expire in several years.

Maybe it’s because our political season is suddenly a snooze fest. Only six weeks out, Erie County residents may be excused for forgetting there is a County Executive race this November. In contrast to Senator Mark Grisanti’s race for a district that covers roughly the same territory, the recent special election to replace Sam Hoyt in the Assembly passed a week ago with barely a whisper. The local Tea Party groups stopped holding rallies at the waterfront, and no highway tolls are currently on the chopping block. We downsized our Erie County legislature with the help of a judge, and Maria Whyte finds herself stumping for upgrades to the county clerk’s office (Kathy Hochul presided over the Dark Ages?) instead of lighting evil fat cats on fire. We have a Governor who earns the begrudging respect of everyone in the room, and through pragmatic competent leadership, Albany’s tone has actually changed. Alan Bedenko’s coverage of petty politics in Clarence is as insightful as it is ordinary. A fascinating glimpse into crumb gathering to be sure, and effective at the ballot box, but the fish are so much smaller than what we’re used to.

Maybe it’s because no one of the above really matters all that much. It was a beautiful summer, the Bills are 2-0 (and so is my fantasy football team), and Terry Pegula has Sabres fans walking in a perpetual blissful dream world. The worst of the catholic church closings have passed, there are more urban gardens every year, the roads are full of construction workers (read: jobs), and Gordon Biersch has landed at the Galleria. Small improvements, from Riverfest Park to Buffalo River dredging to three-story brownstone renovations all over the city, are quietly creating a swelling avalanche of pebble-sized bits of good news.

Artwork by Christopher Carter

So the Jersey Livery renovation hasn’t happened yet. Neither has the Wingate Hotel of Doom. No one is chaining themselves to piles of bricks to thwart the wrecking ball. Instead, orphanages that I considered lost causes are undergoing rehab in forgotten corners of the city. The Tonawanda Powertrain workers are back, and GM is dumping in nearly a billion in new investment. The Great Recession was bad in Buffalo, but our 7.6% unemployment rate and tiny housing price growth is the envy of the nation.

Has this placated us? It’s not like every problem has gone away. We still have a caretaker, over-politicized mayor. We still have a shrinking population and blighted neighborhoods. A rash of industrial fires in residential neighborhoods have spurred the Clean Air Coalition of WNY to expose how little we know about air quality during major accidents.  But I hear little generally from the activist community locally. I’m not being asked to attend rallies to save anything, stop anything, or make anyone change their mind. 

Why? What do you think? Has the tone changed or have I missed it? I look forward to input and comments.

Cuomo in the Environmental Vanguard

31 Aug

Governor Cuomo’s first year in office has been marked by pragmatic success and (except for same-sex marriage legalization) low-drama victories: an on-time budget that left taxes unraised, slashed government workforce, slow balanced approach to hydrofracking and generally competent governance that has left Republicans and Democrats mostly satisfied. The aftermath of Hurricane Irene will test his emergency operation chops, but the flood waters in the North Country and Hudson Valley will eventually recede and he’ll be stronger for it.

Such a steady hand on the tiller belies an area of policy in which Cuomo is quietly making a big splash: water quality and invasive species management. The environmentalists that are howling that he is too lenient on natural gas extraction can’t complain that he is taking a mushy middle approach in picking a fight with the international shipping industry. Here, New York is acting more as California has with marijuana and clean air laws – setting a bold regulatory standard at the state level, and expecting the federal government and foreign countries to catch up to the program. Let me explain.

 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is promulgating regulations that would require international shipping vessels to retrofit their freighters with miniature wastewater treatment plants in their ballast tanks. In the last twenty years those ballast tanks have been responsible for carting invasive species around the planet, as a Maersk ship takes on water to fill its tanks in the Crimea and dumps it in Lake Ontario while off-loading Chinese televisions in Hamilton. These invasive species – some well known like the Zebra Mussel, others less so – have remade the ecology of the Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence Seaway and Hudson River.

Cuomo and the DEC want it to stop. Whether they will be able to, or even can, is a matter of debate. The shipping industry correctly notes that the technology New York is calling for is not simply prohibitively expensive, but also currently doesn’t exist. The DEC says they are seeking to spur innovation and technology research with these regulations, and as long as the shipping industry is showing a good faith effort to develop such ship-based wastewater systems, they will be patient. Perhaps not unexpectedly, there is no crash Manhattan Project-like effort currently underway to comply. 

In this effort Cuomo has few political allies either. Most analysts agree that New York adopting these measures would effectively halt water-borne trade upstream of New York’s portion of the Saint Lawrence. In President Obama’s administration, only the regional EPA official has gotten on board with the plan, and the agency itself is developing shipping regulations that are far less stringent. Canada is howling as well, as a far greater percentage of their GDP floats in container ships down the Seaway. Even fellow Great Lakes states have not shown support. In Ohio, where the state legislature recently floated a water diversion bill that was vetoed by Republican Governor John Kasich, there is a plan to punish New York if it implements this regulation. Republican Congressman Steven LaTourette has introduced an amendment to the EPA’s Appropriation bill that would strip any state (read: New York) of all EPA funds if it implements regulations that would force freighters to clean their ballast water. All involved, including Rep. LaTourette, agree this is a simple gimmick to force the DEC to flinch. The EPA currently spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in New York doing a myriad of clean up projects.  

Whether the change in the ecology of north-eastern rivers and lakes is good or bad is a matter of debate. That it is radically different is indisputable by all. In the Hudson River estuary, where fresh and salt water mix, zebra mussels now make up half the biomass of the entire ecosystem. Quagga mussels now number 900 trillion in Lake Michigan alone – their filtering of the plankton in the water has reduced fish stocks to the point where the last commercial fishing boat just left the port of Milwaukee, ending an industry dating from the 19th century. Closer to home, cloudy Lake Ontario is now crystal clear, swept clean by zebra mussels. Sport fish charter boat captains that I have spoken to say that the mussels have been a mixed blessing – zebra mussels provide some food and habitat for wildlife and the desirable fish are still there, but they can see the monofilament lines in the newly sparkling water and they are harder to catch. More frustrating on a hourly basis is the spiny waterflea, another newly introduced species, that clings to lines in off-yellow clumps, tangling rigging systems and requiring constant cleaning. 

What comes next?  As the DEC originally recommended these regulations during the Paterson administration, Cuomo has the political cover to back down. But should he?

BREAKING: Sam Hoyt to Cuomo Administration (UPDATED)

30 Jun

We’re trying to get additional confirmation, but sources tell us that Sam Hoyt will be resigning his Assembly seat to go accept a job with the Cuomo administration.  We’ll update the site as more information trickles in.

UPDATE: It’s confirmed. Sam Hoyt has resigned the Assembly seat he’s held since 1993 and will be accepting a job with the Cuomo Administration at the Empire State Development Corporation. The now-vacant Assembly seat in A-144 will be filled by special election to be called by the governor. Names are already popping up, including City Councilman David Rivera, former Erie County Legislative counsel Sean Ryan, former State Senate candidate Sean Cooney and City Councilman Joe Golombek.  The winner of the special election would serve through the end of 2012, and a regular election would be held in November of that year.

We’re also hearing that this move is part of the same Erie County Democratic peacemaking that led to Len Lenihan’s resignation from his county party chairmanship, and unity more or less across the Democratic ticket for 2011.

UPDATE 2: I’m hearing that Sean Ryan is the likely nominee, already determined as part of the Democratic detente between ECDC, City Hall, and Grassroots.

UPDATE 3: Sam Hoyt has issued a statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:             June 30, 2011

 

STATEMENT FROM SAM HOYT

REGARDING HIS RESIGNATION

 

Dear Friends:

Governor Cuomo has offered me an exciting and important opportunity within his administration, a senior position with the Empire State Development Corporation, about which more details will be available tomorrow. I have accepted his offer with enthusiasm, which necessarily means that I will also be stepping down after 19 years of service in the New York State Assembly. After the most productive legislative session I have experienced – both for me personally and the Legislature as a whole – I can hardly imagine a better moment to make this transition. The last few hours of this last session were by far the most thrilling I have been a part of in all of my years in the Assembly. I was proud to help Governor Cuomo pass key elements of his legislative agenda including SUNY 2020, the strongest property tax cap in the nation, and most historically, marriage equality for all New Yorkers, an issue I have advocated for years.

While the work of the Legislature will never be finished, this session marks the successful completion of many of the projects I have worked on throughout my career. One of my primary goals has always been revitalizing our upstate cities, with a focus, of course, on Buffalo. In the past three years, I have authored and passed into law three bills in particular that I believe will have a transformational impact on our upstate cities. They are the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, the State’s first Smart Growth law, and most recently the Land Bank bill that was passed by both houses just two weeks ago. These three pieces of legislation have the potential to make a significant impact on the repopulation and revitalization of Upstate New York.

Over the past 19 years, I have worked hard to represent the interests of the people of the 144th District, not just in Albany but here at home as well. For me, elected office has been about more than legislation alone. It has been about helping the people in my district when they need it the most, and about making Buffalo a better place to live and work. Over the years, that has meant things like helping protect and preserve the historic H. H. Richardson Complex, stopping the closure of Children’s Hospital, and fighting for community-driven projects like the Jesse Kregal Bike Path along Scajacquada Creek and Black Rock Canal Park. It has also meant hours and hours of constituent service, helping the people of Western New York straighten out bureaucratic problems with Medicaid or unemployment insurance, lending a hand to block clubs in their efforts to clean up problem properties in their neighborhoods, and fighting to ensure that above all, the government works for the people.

Of course in my duties as a Legislator, I have also worked hard for my legislative successes. From the Protections for Health Care Workers Act to the Local Government Consolidation Law to Race to the Top education reform to the Main Street Grants Program and more, I have consistently fought for economic and social justice legislation that would benefit all New Yorkers. All of this work has culminated in the great accomplishments of this most recent legislative session.

It is no coincidence that the Legislature’s most successful year coincides with Governor Cuomo’s first year. I have long felt a sense of partnership with Governor Cuomo, indeed long before he was Governor. There has been no daylight between his priorities and my own. It has therefore not been difficult to conclude that the best way to advance those priorities further on behalf of Western New York and the entire state is to join his team.

I was first elected to the Assembly under sad circumstances – the seat opened upon the premature passing of my father, Bill Hoyt.  My initial motivation was to continue the family legacy – that of both Bill and my mother, Carol of progressive leadership. During the ensuring two decades that motivation has married well with the needs and aspirations of the people of Buffalo and Grand Island, who I have had the honor to serve. And while I enter this new phase under much happier circumstances, those motivations will continue to inspire me every day I will be working for the most dynamic leader this State has seen in generations.

Although this moment marks the end of my career in the Assembly, it is far from a goodbye. More than anything else, every success attributed to me has been a team effort. I am so grateful for the many dedicated staff members I have had over the years who made enormous personal sacrifices to serve along side me to help improve the lives of the people of the 144th District. Both in Albany and throughout the district, they worked long hours behind the scenes on legislation, local projects, constituent service, and beyond. It is through their efforts that I was able to represent the interests of the people of Western New York, and for that I am thankful.

All of you have been my partners in so many of those efforts as well, and Governor Cuomo and I will continue to need your support going forward. The future has never looked brighter. I am grateful for this new opportunity to get to that bright future, and I am eternally grateful for your help, support and friendship in our shared goal of getting there together.

Sincerely,

 

SAM HOYT