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News of Otsego County

Andrew Cuomo

To Frack (Rock)? Or Not To Frack (Hard Place)?

To Frack (Rock)? Or Not To Frack (Hard Place)?

Editorial By Alan Chartock, Capital Connection

For The Freeman’s Journal/HOMETOWN ONEONTA

Edition of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 11-12, 2014

When politicians take money for their campaign coffers, they owe something back. That’s because there is honor among, well, politicians and lobbyists. If you see tons of money going to politicians from the real-estate industry, you’d be foolish not to think that the people who own hotels and other big buildings want something back for their bucks. As Festus Haggen used to say on Gunsmoke, “Don’t you see?”

Now everyone is waiting to see whether Governor Cuomo will allow hydrofracking in New York State. Cuomo is brilliant at both political strategy and fundraising (about $45 million for the last campaign) but he is caught up in a huge pincer movement between those who hate the idea of potentially polluting our water and further despoiling our air and those who want to make a buck from fracking.

My hero, legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, put it to Cuomo this way: “Your father was perhaps the best governor New York State ever had. And if you take the money that they want to give you for going along with fracking and injuring people for generations to come, you will go down as perhaps the worst.” Those were pretty powerful words and I suspect they left Cuomo reeling.

Fracking puts Cuomo between a rock and a hard place. He doesn’t know what to do. As a result of this predicament, the governor’s top people were almost certainly told to stall. So first, the commissioner in charge of environmental conservation studied the problem to death, then transferred the ball to the health commissioner who eventually resigned and went elsewhere. It’s tough to be a medical professional of first rank and have to carry a governor’s political water.

Many people speculated that once Cuomo got through the election he would call for a modified fracking plan for New York, whereby localities that voted to allow fracking would be allowed to “Drill baby drill” under strict supervision. They suspected that the Solomon-like Cuomo would attempt to cut the baby in half. Once the cork was removed, however, the genie would be out of the bottle and fracking would become a reality in the Empire State. But not so fast – there are some intervening political realities.

Cuomo has lost many voters on the left wing of the Democratic Party. Having styled himself as a social progressive and a pro-business fiscal conservative, the governor is getting beaten up by the more progressive members of his party. Fracking is no exception.

A recent Pew poll showed that fracking is getting more and more unpopular among Democrats. So now the rock and the hard place are even closer together. After all, Cuomo got a million fewer votes in the last election than he got the time before. Many of those lost votes were those of angry Democrats who just stayed home. Since Cuomo is much smarter than I am, he’s got to understand that by accepting the money and not taking Pete Seeger’s advice against advancing fracking, he will lose even more of his natural voters.

 

Alas, Dear Citizens, Perhaps Some Of The Fault Is In Ourselves

Alas, Dear Citizens, Perhaps Some Of The Fault Is In Ourselves

Edition of Thursday-Friday Nov. 13-14

 

It’s such a cliche we won’t even say it directly: all-ay, olitics-pay is-ay ocal-lay.

Yes, such was certainly the case in the race for Congress in the 19th, the district that stretches along the Hudson River, then hooks over to, eventually, Otsego County.

The incumbent running for his third term, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, was everywhere. And even after he soundly defeated Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge on Election Day, he kept going, the energizer candidate.

Take a look at his schedule since he was reelected on Nov. 4. He took the 5th off, but on the 6th he had events in South Kortright, Hudson and Kingston. On the 7th, West Sand Lake. Over the weekend, Catskill, Woodbourne, Poughkeepsie, Troy, Rock Hill, Eagles Nest. Look at the map: These places are all over the place.

On the 10th, Webutuck, back to West Sand Lake, then Hyde Park. And on the 11th, Veterans Day, he dashed from a parade in Kingston to the Focus Rehabilitation & Nursing Center (the former Otsego Manor) for Catskill Area Hospice’s annual “Salute the Veterans” ceremony, handing out certificates to 18 residents there.

That’s a lot of handshaking and constituent-meeting, and it characterized Gibson’s whole campaign, and the previous two years since redistricting brought Otsego County into his district in 2012.

Eldridge was an engaging candidate, too. He just didn’t engage enough. Given his connections to Facebook and its reach, it’s probably no surprise that he might have been over-enticed by the relative ease of a virtual campaign. If so, it just didn’t work.

Plus there was the carpetbagger stigma – Eldridge went district shopping, and moved to Shokan, on the southern edge of the 19th, just in time to run for Congress. The stigma was is hard to shake, as proved by his winning just four of the county’s 48 precincts, only four of Democratic Oneonta’s six.

“The old days of having to be a native and lifelong resident don’t hold anymore,” said Tony Casale, Cooperstown, the retired assemblyman from Long Lake. “But you have to move in and settle down before you run for office.” Even a couple of years would have helped, Casale said.

Perhaps he could have made up that deficit by shaking hands, but he was too-little present, at least in these hinterlands. Gibson proved what Eldridge couldn’t do can be done.

Alas, poor Andrew, where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Our governor certainly looked pretty peckish as, accompanied by his partner, always-on Sandra Lee, he cast his ballot in Westchester County.

His victory was never in doubt and, embattled from all sides, he nonetheless won 53.9 percent of the vote to Republican Rob Astorino’s 40.6 percent. Why all the crepe?

Here’s why: According to an analysis by the Syracuse Post-Standard, Governor Cuomo lost 43 Upstate counties, including Otsego, and won only eight this year. In 2010, he won 37 Upstate counties, including Otsego, and lost only 13.

This, despite three balanced budgets in a row, tax reductions we all say we want, the realization of the long-promised Nanotechnology Revolution, Start-Up NY, the economic development councils, the tourism promotions, the four pending casinos. Oh, my.

Still, he was whipsawed. The Frackivistas, sore he hadn’t banned the debated gas-extraction method, vowed “no pasaran,” and threw their votes, first to Zephyr, then to the less-enticing Howie. So there went the center-to-left.

The SAFE Act, pushed through in Cuomo style in the wee hours a few days after Sandy Hook, infuriated the center-to-right, while failing to win back the single-focus anti-frackivists, many of whom would normally have warmed to his gun-control plunge.

Upstate, vigorous, across-the-board policymaking turned out to be a lose-lose. Downstate, New York City predictably went with the Democrat, and that carried the day.

The election didn’t matter to the governor’s New York State career, but it certainly dimmed his prospects beyond.
Perhaps that’s the lesson, dear Brutus: New York elections can be won, but the state is ungovernable.

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