Another conviction? Let's talk about weed!
Posted July 16, 2018 7:22 a.m. EDT
ALBANY, N.Y. _ Say your spouse went shopping on a Saturday afternoon. And say you created quite a mess in the living room while he or she was gone _ beer cans scattered about, a pizza slice stuck to the ceiling, dirty underwear hanging from the antique lamp in the corner.
Now, imagine said spouse walks through the door and looks around the living room, first in confusion and then in growing anger. What do you say?
"Hey, have you noticed the neighbors are painting their house? Quite an interesting color!"
This is known as the change-the-subject strategy. It's a tactic favored by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
And so, as New Yorkers were once again confronted by incontrovertible evidence that state government under the Democrat is an absolute mess, Cuomo preferred the conversation went in a different direction.
Another top aide convicted of corruption? Let's talk about weed!
The guilty fellow this time was Alain Kaloyeros, of course, the sometimes charming and often volatile founder of SUNY Polytechnic Institute. On Thursday, the supposed guru was convicted in a bid-rigging scheme that guided $850 million from taxpayers to favored developers in Buffalo and Syracuse.
The downfall of Kaloyeros, the man tapped to lead the Buffalo Billion and other upstate economic development efforts, followed the March conviction of Cuomo aide and family friend Joe Percoco on corruption charges. The U.S. attorney's office is investigating why a Hudson Valley health care company received $25 million in state grants after a series of Cuomo donations.
And the Dean Skelos verdict will be coming any day now. And Shelly Silver awaits...
MARIJUANA SHOULD BE LEGAL!
So said a long-awaited state report on recreational pot released, as it happens, on Friday morning, just hours after the embarrassing Kaloyeros verdict. Now, maybe the timing was a total and complete coincidence and anyone who suggests otherwise is a deranged conspiracy theorist who must also believe the moon landing was shot in Rockefeller Center.
But I don't think so. I'm half surprised the governor stopped short of handing out pot samples to fog everyone's memory.
Cuomo has been employing the "let's-talk-something-else" strategy for a while now. In the face of all that corruption news and the challenge from Cynthia Nixon and the failure of the subways and the mounting proof that upstate is missing out on the scorching national economy, Cuomo has been doing whatever he can to change the subject.
The ugliness in Albany? No, no, no. Don't even look at that. It isn't worth your time. Mr. Cuomo would like you to focus instead on the grisly scene unfolding down in that snake-riddled bog known as Washington, where President Trump at this very moment is probably concocting a plan that Cuomo will describe as an attack on all that New Yorkers hold dear.
During a visit to the Bronx on Thursday, the governor was asked what issues were of most concern to upstate voters.
"I think they're concerned about national issues and the plight of the nation," he said, according to Nick Reisman of Spectrum News. "Whatever town you live in, as goes the nation, so goes the town."
I think the governor has it backward. Success travels from the bottom up and you get a healthy nation when towns and neighborhoods and families are thriving. Still, I take his point that many voters are worried about the country.
But, um, governor? What about the fact THAT UPSTATE IS FALLING APART?!
Away from the Capital Region, 42 of the 46 upstate counties lost population from 2010 to 2017, and the reason for the exodus is clear: In much of the region, the economy is still lousy even though Cuomo put $25 billion into reviving it.
That brings us back to the Kaloyeros conviction.
For years, Dr. K was the magic man around these parts, the guy who could spin a complex of gleaming buildings from thin air. We learned during the trial that Cuomo initially viewed Kaloyeros skeptically, but eventually put AK-47 _ Kaloyeros' other nickname, we also learned _ in charge of schemes that would have failed even without the bid rigging.
Ignoring the oppressive business climate that is the actual reason for upstate's decline, Cuomo and Kaloyeros oversaw a top-down approach to economic development that generated headlines and campaign contributions but few lasting results.
For example, a movie studio they built for $15 million outside Syracuse just sold for $1. And according to the Investigative Post, the legacy of the Buffalo Billion is 2,200 direct positions at a cost of nearly $500,000 per job.
Cuomo could have achieved better results had he simply dropped the money from a blimp. Voters should be nauseated by the waste, corruption and incompetence. They should be furious at the mess.
But did you hear? Pot may soon be legal!
cchurchill(at)timesunion.com - 518-454-5442 - Twitter: (at)chris_churchill
Contact columnist Chris Churchill at 518-454-5442 or email cchurchill(at)timesunion.com
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