Friday, November 07, 2014

A resonant quote from Cuomo's autobiography: "only results matter"

Consider this quote from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's not-so-well-received autobiography, All Things Possible, concerning Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP), which built housing, and support services, at a time when it was not so popular:
"HELP also showed me the shallowness of the political debate and how hard it is to actually achieve a solution. It also showed me that only results matter. The pundits and ideologues will opine and argue as an ongoing occupation. Someone or something must conclude and act. To act requires skill."
Though a more optimistic lens, that suggests that Cuomo was not--and would not be blinded by partisan blinkers and steered into existing ruts in search of a solution. And surely that's a positive lesson regarding HELP.

Through a more skeptical lens, the pronouncement "only results matter" is just a hair's breadth from "the end justifies the means."

As a former prosecutor, Cuomo should know you can't always get away with that philosophy, since improper tactics can nix a prosecution.

Also, the "only results matter" statement means that sometimes--as with the improper 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards by the previous administration, and the subsequent defense in court by Cuomo's administration--results come with a huge asterisk, requiring a new environmental study and payment of attorneys' fees to community coalition.

And accelerating the (delayed) timetable for subsidized housing without acknowledging the actual affordability.

Moreland and Schwartz

Unfortunately, Cuomo's end--burnishing his reputation--in this book justifies his decision to skate very, very lightly over some controversial issues, including the decision not to act.

For example, Journal News columnist Phil Reisman wrote:
Deep into the book, Cuomo makes a brief pass at fighting political corruption. But you won't find the Moreland Commission in the index. The commission, which Cuomo personally created, was investigating crooked behavior in the state capital when the governor abruptly shut it down. The New York Times interviewed some key commission figures who said that Cuomo aides directly interfered with the commission's work.
One of the alleged meddlers mentioned in the Times story was Larry Schwartz of White Plains, who has been a nonpareil hatchet man going back to the days when he served as Andy Spano's surrogate brain in the Westchester county executive's office.
In his acknowledgements, Cuomo praises Schwartz as the guy who "runs the ship. I have known him for thirty years, and he is as skilled a government and management professional as I have seen."
I'll say.
When I tried to find out more about Schwartz's role in Atlantic Yards--after all, he approved a questionable trip to China by Empire State Development staffer Peter Davidson to boost Forest City Ratner's fundraising--I came up empty, with the Governor's office claiming there were no FOILable records.

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