Tag Archives: Mario Cuomo

The Enigmatic Governor of New York State: Presidential Pretender or a Model Governor for the Nation?

In San Francisco, in the summer of 1984 at the Democratic National Convention, Mario Cuomo, the governor of New York State delivered an iconic speech, a revival of the progressive spirit of the FDR New Deal years,

 A shining city is perhaps all the President [Reagan] sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another city, another part to the shining city—the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages and most young people can’t afford one. Where students can’t afford the education they need and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate. In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it.

 Even worse, there are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city’s streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn’t show. There are ghettoes where thousands of young people without a job, or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers ever day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces you don’t see, in the places you don’t visit, in your shining city.

Watch the speech here.

 The speech thrust Cuomo pere into the front ranks of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination; in 1992 he seemed to be on the verge of declaring his candidacy, he was hours away from jumping on a plane to begin his campaign in New Hampshire. Unexpectedly, at an Albany press conference he declared he had decided not to run.  The speculation: why he decided not to run  has been endless.

Cuomo fils, in his third term as governor, as was his father, denies he has presidential ambitions. His daily press conferences are national news, he has skillfully guided the state through the swamps of Republican Washington politics, and, and is slowly moving the state towards a staged re-opening, he is “presidential,”

The state still teeters on draconian budget cuts without an infusion of federal dollars, Cuomo addressed the issue, and, with the Republican governor of Maryland issued a plea for funding for states, to pay police, firefighters, school teachers and sharply criticized the last bailout bill for shoveling money to the largest corporations who used the funds to boost their stock prices. Andrew called for a massive infrastructure program to rebuild highways and airports and schools; without assistance states face draconian cuts and the loss of jobs,

The governor and the state budget director have unilateral power to reduce aid to school districts and localities mid-year if the state doesn’t meet projected revenues.   The next revenue report is due from the State Comptroller’s office on Friday.

Last week, it seems like longer than that; Cuomo announced a 100 member blue ribbon commission;  Eric Schmidt, Google CEO (2001-2011) will lead the re-imagining of the state economy, Schmidt appeared briefly by webcast to say he would focus on issues such as “telehealth, remote learning and expanding broadband access.”

Cuomo also announced he would partner with the Gates Foundation to “re-imagine education in New York State,” with a comment,

The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?”

The Gates Foundation in a statement said,

“[We are] committed to work with New York State on its efforts to ensure equitable access to education for its students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will soon provide more details about the partnership.

Thousands of e-communications filled the governor’s mailbox opposing any relationship with Gates.

The governor, in the spirit of the FDR New Deal has become the nation’s governor; partnering with other governors across the political spectrum, partnering with legislators , fighting the virus and pushing to revive the national economy.

At the peak of the crisis, not enough ventilators, no enough PPE, not enough health professionals Cuomo averred,

We have to get the private and public [health care] systems working together in New York in a way they never had before …  The distinction between private and public hospitals has to go out the window. We’re one health care system.”

 The underlying issue: dollars.  If public and private hospitals coordinate can the state retain the same level of services and lower costs? Create a private-public hospital partnership.

In my view Cuomo is seeking to control Medicaid expenses thorough reorganization of hospitals in the state. Maybe he’s right.

Education is another major item in the state budget.

Every year a combination of parents, school boards, teacher unions and legislators fight to increase state education funding.  Cuomo has grumbled, “we spend more per student than any other state and graduation rates and student progress is way down the list of states.’

Does Cuomo have a plan to use remote learning to control education costs?

An Education Week article asks, “How Effective Is Online Learning? What the Research Does and Doesn’t Tell Us;” research is clear, online learning is less effective than in-person learning, especially for at-risk students.

Cuomo’s rather anonymous education advisory committee  except for national teacher president Randi Weingarten, a resident of New York City, is devoid of New York City educators, a slap at Mayor de Blasio, who just appointed his own education advisory committee.

Bill and Melinda Gates are well aware of public criticism, and, after major stumbles the Foundation has moved in different direction.

We certainly understand why many people are skeptical about the idea of billionaire philanthropists designing classroom innovations or setting education policy. Frankly, we are, to; Bill and I have always been clear that our role isn’t to generate ideas ourselves; it’s to support innovation driven by people who have spent their careers working in education: teachers, administrators, researchers, and community leaders.

But one thing that makes improving education tricky is that even among people who work on the issue, there isn’t much agreement on what works and what doesn’t.

Is the governor using his new found role, his national popularity, to create a pathway to the White House? To reduce funding for education in the state? Or, is he a model for the nation?

Cuomo’s favorability polling is off the charts.

Am I being too cynical?

Is he still the bully simply using the crisis for his own political benefit?

Mario Cuomo’s 1984 speech is as relevant today as in 1984, perhaps more so, the nation desperately needs a leader to meld our nation together, to lead our nation out of the current morass.

Could Cuomo be that leader? Or, is he Geppetto, pulling our strings?

Does Mario Define Andrew? The Governor Begins His Path to the White House on the Backs of Parents and Teachers

“The connection a man has with his father shapes his life. Which is why every adult son must choose how that relationship will – or won’t – define him.”

As the story goes the charter was sitting on the runway waiting for Mario to announce his candidacy for the presidency and fly off to New Hampshire to campaign for the “first in the nation” primary. The plane waited, and waited, and Mario defaulted. He never caught the plane.

Although not a psychologist I believe this “event” has dominated Andrew’s life, he will never allow the plane to linger on the runway, he will never miss the plane.

Deep in Cuomo Central every step, every speech, every policy is carefully plotted to situate Andrew on the spectrum of potential Democrats. Critics scoff, Andrew can never run for president!! Who was the junior senator from Illinois in 2006, an Afro-American with a Muslim name running for the highest office in the land. Obama overturned the classic progressive-labor-minority coalition, he created a new coalition, hostile to labor, appealing to -baby boomers and creating new voters and activists, first time and young voters who were passionately involved in his election, a campaign that raised mega-dollars and mastered social media.

Cuomo is “inventing” his own democratic coalition. progressive on social issues (marriage equality, the women rights agenda, the Dreamer Act), conservative on economic issues (property tax cap, tax cuts, working closely with business, new casinos) and joining the Obama-DFER views on education: rigid, test-based teacher accountability, charter schools, annual high stakes student testing, merit pay, school closings and “school receivership.”

As the Governor enters his second term his approval ratings, are sky high,

“On the eve of his fifth State of the State address, voters statewide give Cuomo the best favorability rating he’s had since July,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said. “He’s viewed favorably by more than three-quarters of Democrats and New York City voters and favorably by independents and downstate suburbanites. Upstate voters are evenly divided and Republicans are decidedly unfavorable.”

The independent Quinnipiac University Poll gives Cuomo gets a 71 – 23 percent approval rating in New York City.

Cuomo skillfully negotiated a Republican landslide. As the polls increasingly tilted to the Republicans Cuomo aggressively raised money, lots and lots of money, and, turned off the faucet for his opponent. The charter school Political Action Committee (PAC) was dangling millions and Cuomo snapped it up, antagonizing teachers. For a while it looked like the newly elected New York City Mayor might challenge Cuomo, Andrew refused to allow de Blasio to fund Universal Pre-K through a millionaire tax and also forced be Blasio to pay for charter school rent if space was not available in public schools. There was only one king in New York State.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) chipped away at Cuomo during his first term, and although they made no endorsement clearly union members were tilting toward his primary opponent and stayed home in November.

In his State of the State (Watch here) the Governor cut any relationship with teachers and their unions, and, with approval ratings at the top of the scale he’s betting he doesn’t need teachers, or, for that matter, parents.

Cuomo decided to hold education dollars hostage to changes in the law.

For months the Regents have been crafting a budget proposal, the final budget request was for an increase of $2 billion and continuing the phase out of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The Governor’s plan: you’re entitled to $300 million which I will increase $1.2 billion if the legislature approves my agenda:

Governor’s K-12 Agenda:

* Increase the probationary period from three to five years
* Increase the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation plans from 20% to 50%
* “Receivership,” turning low performing schools over to not-for-profits, with wide discretion including terminating collective bargaining agreements.
* Strip away due process rights in teacher dismissal cases
* Increase the charter cap by 100 statewide
* Increase charter school funding
* A tax credit for contributions to private and religious schools
* Tying college teacher prep programs to candidate test scores

The Governor is attempting to bundle his “K-12 Agenda” into the budget, school districts receive additional dollars in exchange for his agenda – all done by April 1.

For the next ten weeks the Legislature and the Governor will posture, will pontificate, will offer and threaten, hordes and hordes of citizen lobbyists will descend on Albany and the “three men in a room” will negotiate.

If the budget does not pass, a complex pied-a-deux, the legislature and the Governor dance toward a budget, item by item, with power tilting toward the Governor.

Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Dean Skelos the Republican majority leader of the Senate and the guv’s guys will play high stakes poker, really high stakes.

It was not surprising that the Governor ended his speech with the same words his father ended his State of the State with in 1983.

“For all the ceremony, and the big house, and all the pomp and circumstance, please don’t let me forget what makes New York New York.”

And, to himself, “Don’t worry Dad, I won’t make the same mistake, when the time comes, I’m ready.”