hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


Editorial September 2021



New York’s new governor, and the promise of change


In terms of tone and style, one can only marvel at the difference a month has made.
At the beginning of August, there was Andrew Cuomo, still ensconced at the Executive Mansion in Albany, and still working tirelessly to control the narrative of each day’s events – and of the scandal that was enveloping his governorship.

By month’s end, he had resigned in disgrace, and New York had a new governor, Kathy Hochul, the first woman ever to hold the job.

After a decade in which Cuomo and his inner circle relied more than a little on fear and intimidation to keep even their political allies in line, Hochul pledged on her first day to “change the culture of Albany” and pursue “a fresh collaborative approach” with legislators.
It is impossible to know, of course, whether Hochul, who has been governor for barely a week as this issue goes to press, really has the skill or even the desire to change the culture of New York’s state government.

Albany’s reputation for dysfunction and corruption was built long before Cuomo won his first term in 2010, and his Executive Chamber was hardly the Capitol’s first toxic workplace. Real change won’t happen merely because he’s gone.

But Hochul’s tone and the symbolic actions she’s taken so far offer reasons for hope. In a first step toward her promise of increased transparency, Hochul began offering a more complete accounting of Covid-19 deaths in New York, adding 12,000 to the figures the Cuomo administration had been using. The revised death toll, at more than 55,000, now matches that reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And against the backt drop of the sexual harassment scandal that drove her predecessor from office, Hochul announced new sexual harassment and ethics training requirements for state employees. She specified that these sessions must be completed in person – after news reports that Cuomo hadn’t bothered to show up for his training.

As a story in this issue details, Hochul has become well known across our region of eastern New York through her many visits in seven years as lieutenant governor to local economic development forums, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and other seemingly mundane civic events. Through these events, she has built relationships with a wide range of community leaders and local officials of both major parties, who overwhelmingly describe her as accessible and likeable.
That suggests she has the capability to pursue the leadership style of consultation and collaboration she has promised.

So does a report in The New York Times in which Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat and the chamber’s longest-serving member, told how Hochul’s staff called to brief him on what the governor would announce in her first speech. It was a gesture that would have been unimaginable under Cuomo.

“Getting a call like that was an unusual and welcome experience,” Gottfried told the paper.
One of the traditional job requirements for a lieutenant governor in New York is to never upstage the governor, and surely Cuomo thought Hochul posed little risk of doing so when he tapped her to run for the job in 2014, when she was little known beyond her Buffalo-area base. And until the past few weeks, she has dutifully flown below the radar of major news events.
Over the coming year, Hochul’s leadership skills will be tested by major decisions and controversies. But for now, it’s encouraging to see that she’s getting the obvious things right.


September political cartoon by Mark Wilson


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