Ringing out the old year, New York is deep into a love affair with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. We weren't expecting this. For one thing, the tradition of hating our state government in Albany is as cherished as our tradition of hating the Red Sox. And until he was elected governor, Cuomo (universally referred to as "Andrew" to separate him from his father) has always been regarded as an unlovable pol with a famous name.
Yet here we are. Stratospheric approval ratings. A list of achievements that includes passage of gay marriage, local property tax caps, an on-time budget, more progressive tax rates, labor peace ... the list goes on. Recently, Cuomo personally intervened to end the "yogurt war" between two upstate towns whose fight over a sewer line extension was threatening expansion plans at a Greek-style yogurt plant. It just took one phone call from Andrew to get the mayors to declare peace, the expansion was saved and the yogurt-eaters of New York are presumably looking forward to a happy new year.
Coming soon: Andrew Parts the Hudson River, Eliminates Need for New Tunnel.
How does he do it? One of Cuomo's secrets, unfortunately, is keeping everything under wraps until a deal is completely done. Before he arrived in the governor's mansion, New Yorkers used to complain about a state government that was run by "three men in a room" - the governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader. Compared to Cuomo's super-secrecy, those days were as rich in participatory democracy as Occupy Wall Street.
He seldom talks to the media, although he did sit down for an interview with GQ, which pictured him as a well-muscled action hero, "The (Real) Governator" and peppered him with questions like: "The tabloids used to call you the Prince of Darkness, Darth Vader ... There's none of that now."
For all his reform talk, Cuomo does seem to give the legislature the things it really cares about. As Michael Powell noted in the Times, Cuomo's tax plan included economic development grants that were heavily geared toward upstate New York, which always needs to be courted, and included $845,000 to Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, the much-investigated playground of Democratic boss Vito Lopez, whose executive director gets $782,000 a year.
The big loser of the Cuomo triumphal tour, so far, has been the rest of New York City. Cuomo has been near-vicious at times with Mayor Michael Bloomberg - and although NYC mayors seldom get along with NYS governors, there ought to be a little deference. New York City and its suburbs pay 72 percent of the state's bills and get about 56 percent back in programs. The least the power brokers in Albany could do is act a little grateful. But Cuomo's fight with Bloomberg over a plan to allow livery cabs to pick up passengers in the outer boroughs went on way too long, and the MTA was a big loser in the recent tax-reform agreement.
However, if any of that bothers you, The Committee to Save New York is barraging New Yorkers with TV ads, the theme of which is how great life is in the state under the benevolent reign of Andrew Cuomo. The Committee, which lobby's on behalf of Andrew's agenda, spent $10 million through October telling us how wonderful the governor is.
Coming even sooner: the Democratic Governors Association meets next month in Manhattan, with Cuomo scheduled as keynote speaker. Post columnist Fred Dicker reported that a "source" told him that Andrew's plan is to "tell governors across the nation that New York has been leading the way in showing how you can get things done, even when Republicans control one house of the Legislature -- just as the GOP controls the House in Washington.''
Comparing Republican control of the New York state Senate with Republican control of the House of Representatives in Washington is like comparing a hamster to a rabid pit bull. The Republican Party in New York is barely strong enough to be called an invalid, and the tiny Republican majority that controls the Senate is happy to work with Cuomo - particularly on an agenda that's all about their constituents, anyway.
Congratulations on a big year, Gov. Cuomo. Best of luck for 2012. And from those of us in New York City - let's see a little more love.