Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate, and Marc Molinaro, Republican, have a surprising amount in common in their quest to be elected governor of New York. Both consider political corruption one of the biggest problems facing the state, and they offer similar fixes. Both want to change the way New York handles economic development spending and funnel much of that money into infrastructure. Both, unlike Gov. Andrew Cuomo, made time for an hour-long meeting with The Post-Star editorial board.
We don’t hold it against candidates who can’t make it to Glens Falls for a meeting. But it does fit with the general arrogance and lack of transparency of the Cuomo administration that our call to request a sit-down with the governor was never returned. One of the worst aspects of the Cuomo administration has been its secrecy. The governor has micromanaged state agencies’ interactions with the press and the public and twisted the purpose of state spokespeople from informing the public to making the governor look good.
Andrew Cuomo is, nevertheless, a skilled politician who impressed us during his first term with his ability to tame the Legislature, deliver budgets on time, legalize gay marriage, establish a tax cap and generally get things done. We were cheered by his aggressive move against political corruption with the establishment of the Moreland Commission. But our optimism turned to disillusionment when, without justification and with its work unfinished, he disbanded the commission after just 10 months. Our disillusionment has grown since then, especially in the last two years with the bribery and bid-rigging scandals associated with the “Buffalo Billion” and other state-backed projects. This once-promising administration has collapsed under its own ambition and arrogance, and New York cannot now move forward without a change at the top.
Hawkins brings a refreshing pragmatism to politics. He has no sharp edges, just a sincere commitment to principles such as the right to a job with a decent wage, accessible health care and a quality education. In the current context, with scientists around the globe warning of a looming climate crisis, the Green Party’s focus on environmental issues no longer seems like a fringe platform. Hawkins advocates, for example, that the state transition to 100 percent green energy by 2030, a goal that may at one time have seemed unrealistic but now seems necessary.
Environmental issues are not Molinaro’s priority, although he supports New York’s already strict environmental laws and has pushed for open space protection in the Hudson Valley. We’d like to see him put a higher priority on addressing climate change now, before circumstances force him and everyone else to make it their top priority.
But Molinaro does impress in other ways. He has a long record of public service — he started as a village of Tivoli trustee at age 18, in 1994, and was elected its mayor at 19. He has since served in the Dutchess County Legislature and the state Assembly and is now the Dutchess County executive. He is knowledgeable about the state’s ailments and ambitious in his prescriptions.
He connects the state’s approach to economic development with the corruption scandals that have dogged the Cuomo administration.
“The entire economic development model is infected by failure and corruption,” he said.
He’s right. The concentration of decision-making power in the governor’s office for the handing-out of billions in economic development dollars offers numerous opportunities for corrupt practices.
The state should be setting priorities and identifying needs for economic development, then making funding decisions based on those decisions, Molinaro said. Pitting regions and communities against each other in competitions for state funding, as Cuomo has done, creates an artificial system that rewards flash over fundamentals.
Molinaro advocates doing away with the competition between Regional Economic Development Councils and using the money primarily to rehabilitate the state’s crumbling infrastructure. Likewise, one-time court settlements, such as the billions the state has wrung out of investment banks in recent years, should be spent on infrastructure and debt reduction, he said. That money should not be used to suppress the cost of tolls on the Mario Cuomo Bridge (formerly called the Tappan Zee), as it has been.
The next governor has to address the culture of corruption at the highest levels of state politics. Molinaro says that means re-establishing the Moreland Commission to investigate corruption, setting up a permanent, independent state ethics commission to do the work the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics now fails to do and banning individuals doing business with the state from making contributions to state politicians.
Molinaro also has an ambitious — some would say unrealistic — plan to lower property taxes by 30 percent over 10 years. The state should gradually take back responsibility from local counties for Medicaid costs, while mandating that counties lower property taxes, he said.
“We must have a bold objective,” he said.
Molinaro matches his bold rhetoric with a detailed grasp of the issues and a confidence born of decades of political experience. He has the ability to lead New York, and it is time for a change.
We urge a vote for Marc Molinaro for governor.(tncms-inline)35f322ff-a8b4-428f-a08e-dcc5cd548165(/tncms-inline)
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Forcey, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Barbara Sealy.