A tough row to hoe

cuomo parade


Over the years, there have been calls for secession from upstaters. They are tired of playing the poor country cousin to New York City which is the economic engine, not only for the country but for the world. Then, too, every once in a while, some in New York City have suggested that the city unburden itself from what they suggest is the basket case economy of upstate New York.

It is not going to happen, of course, but it does reflect the great tension between the two regions.

You would have to define where downstate ends and upstate begins. Some people think upstate begins in New York City’s neighbor, Yonkers, adjacent to the Bronx. No matter, people wishing to establish political careers know that upstate is a killer for their aspirations. Take the case of Andrew Cuomo who has been trying his best to convince upstate voters that he has their interests in heart.

He knows that jobs are the answer and he has tried his best to create upstate jobs. For example, he pledged a billion dollars to the Buffalo economy. He also came up with a plan to make the widely geographically disparate State University of New York into an economic engine for creating businesses that might not have otherwise existed. This came at a price for two reasons. The first was that some faculty members saw it as a deviation from the established purpose of a liberal arts education and it turned the university into a handmaiden of business. Another was that Cuomo promised all kinds of tax breaks to new businesses that attached themselves to a SUNY campus. These were very generous breaks and that riled some of the upstate folks who were paying huge amounts of taxes to the state. “Why,” they asked, “should they get the breaks just because they are at a SUNY school?”

As for the Buffalo Billion, it might have been a good idea until U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara started looking to the way the contracts associated with the Billion were being awarded. Much of it didn’t pass the stink test. In fact, one Request for Proposals said that in order to be considered, the company seeking the contract had to be in business for fifty years! Naturally, only one company passed that entry level test. Team Cuomo announced when that little factoid hit the fan that the “fifty years” had been a misprint and that it should have read “fifteen years.”

Many of us can’t wait until the clerk responsible for that one is put under oath on the stand or asked by the FBI whether it had been his mistake or those dictated from above. Would you go to jail for perjury to protect your betters? I suspect not and since Bharara has subpoenas out all over the place, someone is going to have to explain that one. And that’s only for starters. Now let’s see how all those SUNY contracts have been awarded and who knew whom when all those tax breaks were being given out.

So Andrew Cuomo has a tough row to hoe in convincing upstaters that he really wants to help them. In his last election, he lost almost all of upstate despite his efforts to help. Things are further complicated by the fact that upstate used to be Republican territory while the Democrats had the Big Apple and parts of the burbs. Now the blue is spreading throughout the state. The state Senate is widely expected to go Democratic and the Republicans who were always thought to be protective of upstate will be reduced to minor league status. If the Democrats want to continue their advance through the state they will have to convince upstaters that their interests are being protected. No easy thing. There will be no secession but state politics will never be the same.