Categories: Schenectady County
Tom Cavanagh isn’t looking for a ride as he walks 459 miles across the state in 18 days.
The 60-year-old East Berne resident is on a march to raise awareness about unfunded mandates and the strain they put on the budgets of local governments and school districts.
Today that effort is peaking with a rally in the shadows of the Capitol at noon and then he is on to the city of Rensselaer via Route 9.
The journey began April 15 in Champlain, along the Canadian border, and Friday he did a roughly 27-mile walk from Glens Falls south to Malta. He is followed by Carl Gottstein Jr. in a vehicle that straddles the shoulder of the road.
Cavanagh, a retired cook and former volunteer emergency medical technician, gained some notoriety in 2010 when he staged a quickly aborted hunger strike in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.
He got interested in this issue about a year and a half ago and feels the state is ripe for reform now because of economic woes that have cut government revenues. He said too many people are resigned to accepting unfunded mandates — rules and regulations that the state imposes on lower levels of governments without providing accompanying funding — but hoped that his walk would help to motivate people.
“Now is the perfect time to do this,” Cavanagh said.
His effort is supported by the Upstate Conservative Coalition and a local Tea Party faction.
He noted that this is a nonpartisan issue, citing the fact that people of all political stripes are impacted by property taxes that are generally considered to be the highest in the nation due to mandated costs in school and local government budgets.
“Everyone makes [schools and local governments] out to be demons, but they’re not the demons, because so much of their budget comes from unfunded mandates,” he contended. “As I’m walking down the state, I’m hearing from Democrats and Republicans the same exact thing: ‘These unfunded mandates need to stop.’ ”
First he wants the state to make it illegal for any more unfunded mandates to be created, and then he wants the state to focus on the noncontroversial mandates, which don’t have defenders and wouldn’t be missed if they were eradicated.
“Working together on the right and the left, we can make this happen,” he said.
In preparation for the trek, he began walking a little, but after completing more than the distance of a marathon each day, he admits he feels sore. At night, he is staying in hotels, which he hopes people will donate money to help him pay for, and he gets up every morning around 8 a.m. to start the new day. When walking, he tries to stay hydrated as best he can, usually carrying a water bottle in his hand, and is careful to take all his vitamins.
He follows a prepared schedule pretty rigorously and doesn’t ever end his days early.
“Whatever it takes me to get it done, I get it done,” he said.
Follow Cavanagh’s progress at www.stopnymandates.com.