Rob Astorino

New York state gubernatorial Republican candidate Rob Astorino speaks Thursday during an editorial board meeting at The Post-Star in Glens Falls. (Steve Jacobs - sjacobs@poststar.com)

Corruption is New York’s biggest political problem and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s retreat from the fight against political corruption disqualifies him from re-election.

It’s an embarrassment to every New Yorker that a federal prosecutor — the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Preet Bharara — is now handling various corruption investigations begun by the Moreland Commission, which was established by Gov. Cuomo.

Mr. Bharara was compelled to seize the Moreland files after Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission in March in what appeared to be a backroom deal with state legislators.

The commission had been making progress before its disbanding, but as revealed later by a New York Times investigation, its work was hobbled by interference from the governor’s office. When commission investigations steered close to Cuomo allies, the message was sent down to back off. What could have been an effective attack against the chronic public corruption in New York — an attack many people had been calling for and hoping would finally happen — became instead just one more political tool wielded by Cuomo. In the end, he devalued the commission to the status of a bargaining chip and used it to get his budget passed.

The Moreland episode captured Cuomo at his worst — his arrogance, his cynicism, his need for control and unwillingness to allow any state-sanctioned activity to proceed without his explicit permission.

We learned recently from The Associated Press that, under Cuomo, all requests for state documents under New York’s Freedom of Information Law must get routed through the governor’s legal counsel. Not surprisingly, those requests are routinely delayed, sometimes for months, under the Cuomo administration.

It’s important that the public have access to documents that reveal how state government is being run. By itself, the Cuomo administration’s handling of FOIL requests is disturbing. But the takeover of FOIL by Cuomo’s office is just one symptom of his administration’s disease — an advanced case of paranoid control freakism — that has infected the state government.

We are not adamant opponents of gun control. Much of the SAFE Act makes sense. But the way Cuomo got the law passed, by slipping it by the Legislature at the last minute with a gimmick called a “message of necessity,” undermines any good the law may do.

We are supposed to live in a participative democracy. The means of backroom deals and underhanded legislative maneuvers are not justified by the ends of getting things done.

Few candidates could offer a clearer contrast with Cuomo

than Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate. A United Parcel Services worker, Hawkins had to take a leave of absence from his job to conduct a campaign for governor.

Hawkins is campaigning on a working-class platform that defines prosperity as improvement in the lives of a broad swath of the population, not the people already at the top. His focus on the environment and on helping working-class people makes him a real alternative to the major-party candidates.

Astorino also offers a change from Cuomo, and he has experience as a municipal chief executive. Although the Cuomo camp has attempted to portray him as an extremist, he has proven, as the executive of a county filled with Democrats, that he can work with Democratic officials.

The Cuomo camp has also tried to make much of Astorino’s conflicts with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which in a settlement with Astorino’s predecessor ordered the construction of low-cost housing in Westchester County.

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That housing is being built, but Astorino has complained about what he describes as HUD’s interference with local zoning and has refused to cooperate with other demands from the federal agency. HUD has withheld millions of dollars in community development grants from the county as a result.

We do think Astorino would be wise to settle the dispute with HUD, as it is costing his county a lot of money. But we do not agree with Cuomo that Astorino is working to perpetuate housing discrimination based on race.

In 2012, after two years in office but before the SAFE Act and before the collapse of the Moreland Commission, Andrew Cuomo would have been our choice for governor. He was a bully even then, but he was a governor who had bullied the Legislature into doing things that benefited the people of the state, such as pension reform, tax reform and changes in teacher evaluations.

But in the past two years, Cuomo’s tendency to push people around and to subvert all other goals to his own promotion and protection have worked against the public interest. We cannot support a candidate who enlists our enthusiasm for one of the most important tasks the state has ever undertaken — rooting out political corruption — only to drop the endeavor a few months later as casually as other people drop a tissue in the trash.

Cuomo does not deserve another four years as governor. Astorino will do better.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Terry Coomes, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representative Mike Sundberg.


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