April 15, 2022
Governor Andrew Cuomo was loathsome. Seemingly redeemed in the pandemic’s beginnings, we soon learned he’d fudged nursing home death numbers, to cover an apparent policy blunder, compounded by a cover-up of the cover-up. Compounded further by his smelly $5.1 million deal for a book about his supposed pandemic wonderfulness. The book largely produced, illegally, by state employees. And then . . . all those women.
Facing impeachment, Cuomo resigned. Now he’s trying for rehabilitation as an innocent victim of political hit-jobs. Everybody politically motivated — except him, of course. Puh-leeze.
The elevation of Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul last August felt like a breath of fresh air. No Cuomo henchperson, he’d actually tried to get rid of her. She seemed the un-Cuomo.
High on her agenda was ethics reform. The state’s ethics watchdog, JCOPE, had become known as JJOKE, being stuffed with political operatives by the very officials it was supposed to watchdog. Most prominently Andrew Cuomo. Unsurprisingly, JCOPE was a lapdog. Hochul did advocate a seemingly dramatic reform. But it’s been so watered down that it too is a sorry joke. (New York’s pols just won’t give up control.)
Then came Hochul’s first big BB boo-boo: The Buffalo Bills. A football team, from her original home turf, whose billionaire owner fancies a snazzy new stadium. Threatening (as they always do) that if he doesn’t get it, courtesy of taxpayers, he’ll take the team elsewhere. Hochul promptly caved, pledging $650 million in state money. Plus $250 million from the county. Biggest public stadium giveaway in America.
I happen to consider the obsession with professional team sports ridiculous. To people who derive vicarious jollies from meaningless victories by teams they don’t play for, I say: get a life. But if fans want to pay for their fetish, fine.
However, with millions of New Yorkers struggling just to get by (if at all), it’s criminal to blow so much state money on a needless new football stadium. That will be used only around ten times yearly, distant from the city center, and thus unlikely to spur local economic development. Further, the $650 million is only the start, the state will be on the hook for upkeep too. The eventual cost may exceed a billion. (Reprising Cuomo’s own “Buffalo Billion,” another ill-considered (and probably corrupt) economic stimulus boondoggle.)
And will state taxpayers, who are footing the bill, get discounted tickets? Don’t be silly.
And get this: Hochul’s thrill for the Bills is not mere hometown boosterism. Her husband is a bigwig with a company profiting from stadium concessions. Plus, she got fat campaign contributions from lobbyists for the Bills. Indeed, she’s been on a tear scarfing up many millions in donations from lobbyists with business interests before the state, raising ethical issues troubling to say the least. And she flew to many of these fund-raisers on state aircraft.
So now comes Hochul’s second big BB boo-boo: Brian Benjamin.
A state senator she appointed to fill the lieutenant governorship. Being Black didn’t hurt. Ostensibly with some record of community development. But there were already some queasy questions. Now blown up into a federal corruption indictment, and Benjamin’s arrest and resignation.
He allegedly, as a senator, arranged a state grant for a crony that was converted directly into campaign contributions — doubly ripping off taxpayers thanks to New York City’s matching program for campaign finance. One might ask how the legislature could have been complicit in such a scheme, authorizing the money. But this is New York, after all. (And actually, Benjamin’s scam was little different from what many legislators do, only his was stupidly more overt.)
Hochul says that when appointing Benjamin she was assured his legal issues were all resolved. How naive was she? This was a big boo-boo.
He can’t be removed now from the June 28 primary ballot, leaving the lieutenant governor election in chaos. We’ll also choose gubernatorial nominees. One Hochul rival is Jumaane Williams, an elected NYC official, loudly “progressive,” with Tourette’s Syndrome. The other is Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi, who distances himself from the left-wingery indulged by many New York Democrats. I’ve heard him interviewed, and he generally seemed to make sense.
I will vote for Suozzi. (Good luck.)
Republicans are nominating a Congressman who voted, on January 6, to overthrow American democracy.
Well, maybe all this is not so bad, compared to what’s happening in Ukraine.