Cuomo-esque

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A New York Democrat would seemingly do well to emulate Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo was a politician who had his share of electoral setbacks. He wasn’t the party favorite in 1982 for the nomination as governor (Ed Koch was).

We all know what happened. Cuomo won, and held the governor’s mansion for 12 years.

Heck, a Democrat like Bob Duffy would do well to follow his lead, right?

Problem is that Duffy hasn’t yet made his choice on whether to get in to the race to replace Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson.

And, to some, he is striking a Cuomo-like pose that remains Mario’s worst political legacy.

Who could forget Cuomo playing Hamlet when it came to the presidency – "To run or not to run?" In 1988 it almost looked certain that he was in… and then he backed off at the last minute, confounding those within the Democratic Party.

Now here is Police Chief Duffy. He wrote a letter to Democrats last month, not for support, but to ask them about issues that ought to be important to the next mayor. Kind of a Hillary Clinton listening tour by mail.

Last week he visited Democratic Party committees, although it was only to talk about crime issues as chief.

And there is that exploratory political committee that spent $15,000 on polling that showed Duffy would do well in a run for mayor.

Critics say that Duffy is having it both ways. He’s doing everything he can to prime a candidacy for mayor, but isn’t giving up the trapping of being police chief.

Duffy says that there are always going to be those who spin things. He said that if he were looking at another job in the private sector, no one would cast negatives motives to his careful deliberation. Duffy argues that he’s going to take his time for the right reasons – and he’s not going to use his job as chief for political gain.

"I’m very cautious with things we do in the police department," he said. "I would never, ever take advantage of my position."

But Duffy should understand something. The longer he takes, the more time he gives to political rivals who could say that, when it comes to making throwing the hat in the ring, he’s "Cuomo-esque."

Maybe in the end it won’t matter. But maybe it’s the kind of thing that could nick his candidacy.

NORWOOD ON THE PAST

It appears that mayoral candidate and City Councilman Wade Norwood isn’t too concerned with an endorsement from the current occupant of the mayor’s seat: Bill Johnson.

During a recent interview with Norwood on WXXI’s Need to Know, Norwood said that the city has not been able to turn big ideas into action. He was asked if there was something different in his personality from Mayor Johnson’s that would bring about action.

Norwood said: "I think that what we are seeing right now, and what we have lived with in this town for the last decade is a style and a concept of leadership that has not only created stark positions but also created bad relationships."

I asked if that included Mayor Johnson.

"Mayor Johnson’s included. Many other players are included. And I think what I offer to this community is a very different type of leadership, a leadership that’s based on the belief that … disagreement and debate are important parts of governing and (that) there is nothing wrong with finding compromise."

First of all, there had been a long history of contentiousness between the city and county when Johnson and County Executive Jack Doyle were at the helm. So the commentary would seem appropriate.

Except that in the last year Johnson and the new county executive, Maggie Brooks, have played much nicer.

Clearly Norwood isn’t that concerned much about whether or not Johnson will take issue with such a comment. (No word yet on what the current occupant of the office thinks).

Perhaps Norwood is simply trying to show that he is his own man.

LOSING POWER

A New York court ruling last month limits what the state legislature can do to alter the governor’s budget. They can shave money from a particular proposal or add money to it. They could get rid of a spending item.

But lawmakers can’t, as they have in years past, alter the substance of a proposal.

As Albany correspondent for NPR Karen Dewitt explained, in years past, the state legislature beat back Gov. George Pataki’s attempts to change the formula to fund education by altering the language in the budget bill. No more, thanks to the courts.

Lawmakers are fuming about the power storage. One assemblyman, Richard Brodsky of Westchester County, said this may force the legislature to hold the budget hostage.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong — but hasn’t the Albany government been "holding the budget hostage" for various reasons for the last 20 years? There is always an excuse for why the April 1 deadline can’t be met.

Now, it appears, some legislators have a new one.

But here is the irony.

The New York State Legislature exercised little power back in the days of Nelson Rockefeller. But toward the end of Rocky’s reign, the legislature began to assert itself more in the budget making process, and made that the accepted way of negotiating.

And in that time the Albany budget negotiations have been sluggish, contentious and dysfunctional.

One might say that, when it comes to calling for equal power, the state legislature squandered any high ground it might have had.

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