05/26/2010 04:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cuomo's Lieutenant: Leaving the City for the State

Back in the dark ages of December 2007 when the Great Recession was just beginning, Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, Attorney General Cuomo's pick for lieutenant governor, expressed concern about the federal government's treatment of cities. He was worried that urban areas were not a priority for the Bush administration, and criticized it for trying to win over hearts and minds in Iraq while losing them in urban areas at home.

Duffy put blame for the problems that he identified in many cities, including his own, on a "lack of forethought" and noted the lack of access mayors had to the White House during Bush's presidency. Indeed, before traveling to Washington to meet with newly inaugurated President Obama after the passage of the stimulus package, Duffy released his own "official request" for federal economic recovery funds, including infrastructure and green jobs projects.

But Duffy has not simply cast stones at Washington. Stephen Goldsmith, New York City's newest deputy mayor, highlighted Duffy's efforts to improve the literacy rate in Rochester in a 2009 interview. And Duffy's biggest fight, for control of Rochester's schools, demonstrates a willingness to take responsibility for and charge of difficult challenges.

Additionally, Duffy's perspective on cities is somewhat contentious given Rochester's reputation for sprawl and the popular notion that "regions" and "metros" are the appropriate units of analysis for city thinkers. "There can be no suburbs without strong cities," Duffy says. "Nobody wants to be a suburb of nothing. You have to be a suburb of something that's really strong and vibrant."

If elected as lieutenant governor, Mayor Duffy has the potential to bring a different urban perspective to Albany. Coming from upstate, Duffy would be uniquely situated to argue that dense, urban areas - all of them - are the most efficient places for investment. While a Cuomo administration would certainly need to keep up the pressure on the Obama administration's urban policy efforts, Duffy, if elected, could use his experience in Rochester to create a state urban agenda for New York to address issues as diverse as lackluster state funding for the MTA, sprawl in upstate New York, and retention and creation of manufacturing jobs throughout the state.