Albany

The capital of the Empire State, the place where all the good stuff happens...

Leading the state? Our Sonofa Gov, Andrew Cuomo, now in his second term, who has been in office since 2011. 

Sonofa Gov is a true statement - Mario Cuomo, his father, ran the show in Albany for three terms back in the 80s and 90s; it's also more polite than calling him a son-of-a-something-else, which is the opinion many have of the current Cuomo. He's the last of the Three Amigos still standing; the other two, Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, were both charged and convicted on ethics-related charges, with US Attorney Preet Bharara leading the charge. And while Bharara is in New York City, not Albany, his presence is strongly felt.

The subject of ethics just won't go away.  We have JCOPE, NY's public ethics commission, which doesn't have a lot of teeth. We have the defunct Moreland Commission, set up and abruptly cancelled by the Sonofa Gov, really before things started to get interesting. You can see posts on that group here. And, we have Cuomo trying to beat the legislature into submission by interjecting ethics changes into every possible discussion, including budget negotiations.

Democrats control the State Assembly, which is perceived by many as being all about New York City. Republicans occasionally control the State Senate (by the slimmest of margins or tied, lately) and of course, the Senate is perceived as being anti-New York City. Needless to say, it makes for some interesting legislative battles - and, sometimes, some legislative successes, such as the plan for increasing the minimum wage across the state.

We have had mostly on-time budgets under Cuomo's leadership, something that was often difficult to accomplish under prior administrations. And while our state government can come to terms on things sometimes, much of what happens is still, sadly, done via the 'three men in a room' process, where the Gov, the Senate Majority Leader and the Assembly Speaker sit down, smack each other around outside the presence of their respective teams, and come to agreement on what will be put forward. (This is what Cuomo's Three Amigos reference was all about.)

The outcomes of  the back-room arm-twisting usually surface in the waning hours of March, if we're talking about the budget, or in the last days of May or very early June, when the legislative session comes to a close with a flurry of bill-passing, back-slapping, and press conferences. Here's a 2006 description of the process, which the author referred to as Triopoly. While the names have changed in the past decade, much remains the same.

Economic development, taxes, a shrinking population, expansive social programs, middle income growth, and yes - again - the blue/red divide - are among the issues we face, and for which we look to Albany to either take the lead, or get out of the way, depending on one's priorities.

But, with unlimited terms for the Legislature and the Executive, voter turnout remains shockingly low: in 2014, it was the worst in 72 years, according to the NY Times. And, according to a report cited by Albany's hometown newspaper, the Times Union, we were "49th best" in the nation. Surely, we can do better than that.

In 2016, I introduced Meanwhile Back in Albany (MBIA) as a recurring thread to corral posts related to what's happening in state government. Posts from previous years can be found using keywords Andrew Cuomo, Albany, and Ethics, among others. I'll be adding the MBIA tag to older posts as I can.