A Quiet Cuomo Takes His Agenda to the People

The Legislature might have no choice but to join the agenga of the "stealth governor"

By Gabe Pressman
|  Thursday, May 12, 2011  |  Updated 5:52 PM EDT
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks about heightened security measures following Osama Bin Laden's death during a news conference in Albany, N.Y. on Monday, May 2, 2011. Cuomo is putting police, National Guard and other emergency response forces on alert, but no threats of retaliatory strikes by terrorists have been made since Bin Laden's death was announced. A portrait of former Gov. Al Smith is seen in the background. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

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Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to be off to a good start. His approval ratings are high. He is following a careful, almost methodical approach to the issues that concern him.

Compared to his two immediate predecessors, David Paterson and Elliot Spitzer, he’s almost the Stealth Governor. A lot of exposure didn’t seem to help them. Andrew Cuomo seems to believe in making his public appearances, relatively few in number, count.
                 
He has just embarked on a statewide journey to promote his agenda. He calls it his “People First” campaign.
                 
The Governor is seeking support for his proposal to put a cap on local property taxes. He wants stricter rules for disclosing outside income. And he’s determined to pass a  bill legalizing same sex marriages. In a speech in Syracuse, he said: “Tell your legislators it’s simple. Pass the bills or don’t come home.”
                  
Russ Haven, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told me: “Early on, he seems to have a clear vision, a very strategic sense. It’s a tremendous, impressive start.”
                   
Ethics legislation seems to be the heart of Cuomo's program. Cuomo wants commissions to oversee ethics in the Legislature and the executive branch of government. Some legislators seem to be unhappy about having an independent, outside commission scrutinize their actions.  Cuomo wants strict disclosures of outside income.

He wants to legalize gay marriage.
                    
The legislative session ends on June 20, so the clock is ticking and much depends on how rapidly the Legislature can take up the Cuomo agenda. “This is a battle for control of Albany. That’s why I’m here and not in Albany,” he told an audience in Syracuse. “The people have to take control of Albany.”
                      
The cycle of corruption or suspected wrongdoing never seems to end in Albany. Just this past week, prosecutors released papers showing that former State Senator Vincent Leibell III of upstate New York  had built a $1.7 million home, using contractors to whom he had steered lucrative state work. Leibell pleaded guilty to corruption charges last year.
                        
Cuomo said a property tax cap of 2% a year outside of New York would “stack the deck in favor of the taxpayer for a change.” And he urged that New York “catch up” with other states that have already legalized gay marriage.
                           
At a time when many New Yorkers are cynical about state government, Andrew Cuomo is challenging the Legislature to stand with him -- or run the risk of having to battle a so far popular governor. It’s very early in the game but, so far, Cuomo seems to have all the cards and he’s playing them right.  So far.          

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