Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Taking the oath of office (l to r) Governor Kathy Hochul, First Gentleman Bill Hochul (holding Bible) and New York's Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

On his last day in office, Monday, August 23, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office played a recorded message to the people of New York state. In the message he eschewed elected officials as political people and spoke to the average New Yorker who, he maintains, are the ones who elected him.

“I said when I started, I work for the people,” Cuomo noted. “I work for you. And to me, that is everything. My faith has been in the people, not the politicians and not even the political system. I know too well the flaws of the political system. I believed and still believe that New Yorkers are informed with the facts when they believe the facts, when they believe they’re told the truth, they will do the right thing.”

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Cuomo remained defiant against the accusations from women and the report from the attorney general’s office.

“There will be another time to talk about the truth and ethics of the recent situation involving me, but let me say now that, when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system – and that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society,” Cuomo said in his video message recorded a week earlier at the Executive Mansion in Albany. “I understand that there are moments of intense political pressure and media frenzy that cause a rush to judgment. But that is not right. It’s not fair or sustainable. Facts still matter.”

Cuomo drew an analogy to something small blowing up out of proportion.

“A fire cracker can start a stampede but at one point everyone looks around and says why are we running? The truth is ultimately always revealed. The Attorney General’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic. And it worked. There was a political and media stampede. But the truth will come out in time – of that I am confident,” Cuomo said as if he was hinting another book in his defense may be on the horizon. “I am a fighter and my instinct is to fight this because it is unfair and unjust in my mind. But you also know that I love New York and I serve you. That is the oath that I took and in this moment I believe the right thing is that my service come first.”

Then Cuomo launched into a litany of accomplishments making sure people knew that his progressive policies were distinguished from Socialist policies being advocated by recently elected lawmakers.

“We must keep people and businesses thriving in this state,” Cuomo said endearingly. “Crime must be controlled and we have to be smart about it. No governor in the nation has passed more progressive measures than I have, but I disagree with some people in my own party who called to defund the police. I believe it is misguided. I believe it is dangerous. Our state’s economic competitiveness is vital. Demonizing business is against our collective self-interest. Taking actions that cause businesses to flee the state, taking jobs with them, only weakens our tax base and our ability to do good things for people.”

Cuomo also took an oblique shot at Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, New York’s senior United States Senator for being ineffective.

“We can address income inequality without ending incomes,” Cuomo detailed. “Taxes can be reduced right away if Washington does what they promised New Yorkers they would do and repeal the so-called SALT tax. That would lower New York’s taxes $15 billion per year. That would make a major difference and frankly dwarf all of the other federal aid programs. We cannot go back to the old days when government talked, and government debated, and government issued a lot of press releases about what they were doing, but they never made a difference in people’s lives, and they never improved, and they never built.”

Cuomo offered his advice as if he were a father to 19 million New Yorkers leaving words of wisdom for his children as he leaves home.

“It’s not what we say in life that matters. It’s what we do,” Cuomo counseled. “And the same is true for our elected officials and our government. We have developed, over the last decade, a new paradigm of government in this state, a government that actually works and actually works for people. It sounds simple, but it’s all the difference in the world. We cannot go backwards. We didn’t always get it quite right. But I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, that every day I worked my hardest. I gave it my all and I tried my best to deliver for you. And that is the God’s honest truth. You are the u in unity and New York chooses unity over division every time.”

As if to leave New Yorkers with a positive message Cuomo in essence signed off by saying don’t forget about me. Remember the good things I did.

“Thank you for the honor of serving as governor of New York. Thank you for allowing me to represent you. Thank you for empowering me to fight for you. Thank you for trusting me through Covid. Thank you for making New York state the progressive capital of the nation. Thank you for vindicating E.B. White’s words, often quoted by my father, G-d rest his soul, when he said, “New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village, the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up.” Thank you for the honor of serving you and never forget, always stay New York tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving. It’s the essence of what makes New Yorkers so special.”

 

Hochul Takes Center Stage

Kathy Courtney Hochul was sworn in by New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore as New York’s 57th governor on August 24. Hochul is the ninth female governor in the United States, six of whom are Democrats. Holding the Bible at her swearing-in was her husband of 37 years and First Gentleman Bill Hochul, a former United States Attorney for the Western District of New York. He is now senior vice president and general counsel to Delaware North Companies, a hospitality and gambling company.

The Hochuls have two children, who are both married. Will and Christina Hochul as well as Katie (Caitlin) Hochul and her husband Matt Gloudeman were in attendance for the historic swearing-in. Hochul’s father Jack Courtney was in a wheelchair as he watched his daughter’s swearing-in, along with his five other children. Hochul, 62, is the second oldest of six children.

After she was sworn in to office, Hochul emphasized that she is looking to change the culture in Albany and seeking to establish a fresh collaborative approach with all elected officials.

She cited a phone call she received from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just prior to his announcement about mandating vaccines for employees with the New York City Department of Education. Union officials said they would be filing an unfair labor practices complaint because the union was not consulted first and collective bargaining measures were ignored.

“He actually called me prior to his announcement to alert me and we talked about this air of cooperation, that there will be no blindsiding,” Hochul said. “There will just be full cooperation because I need his best and brightest integrated with my best and brightest and that’s how we’ll get through this. For me that’s just the simple approach. That’s what I’ve always done.”

Her overarching theme for the next several months will be to restore integrity to the governor’s office, a theme similar to what Gerald Ford espoused when he became President of the United States in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

“I want people to believe in their government again,” Hochul said. “It’s important to me that people have faith. Our strength comes from the faith and the confidence of these people who have put us in these offices. I take that very seriously.”

Hochul says easing tensions between tenants and landlords by getting financial relief in the hands of tenants to pay their rent will be one of her top priorities.

Hochul has given herself a 45-day transition period to sort through a massive amount of information and make changes in the administration.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.