Traveling state of the state a bad idea

Don't get sucked into any nonsense about reaching all the people.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered the 2016 state of the state in Albany.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered the 2016 state of the state in Albany.

From a strictly practical matter, it doesn’t really matter where Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his state-of-the-state message from.

It doesn’t matter whether he makes a single speech in a giant convention hall with the entire state Legislature present, or whether he delivers it at six regional different venues around the state, as he’s planning to do next month.

The governor is under no legal or constitutional obligation to stand before lawmakers and endure the spectacle of opponents making a political show of blatantly not applauding his initiatives. He could even deliver the state-of-the-state message in writing, as governors used to do.

In all practicality, it’s just a report. But in reality, it’s much more.

The governor’s decision to depart from tradition and deliver the speech at regional venues around the state next month has a number of negative implications.

First, he’s sending New Yorkers a strong message of his disrespect for the Legislature by not addressing the Legislative Branch as a single, complete body, directly and in person.

That’s bad for New Yorkers because it foreshadows a continuation of their rocky relationship and continued inability to work together on important issues.

The governor’s move is also blatantly self-serving. By taking his show on the road, he’s making this about himself instead of the government as a whole. He and his accomplishments — not the Legislature or the state — will now be the focus of all the attention.

During his six separate speeches, he’ll likely use each opportunity to tout the successes achieved for that particular region, downplaying both a statewide vision and glossing over the problems and needs of the entire state.

That means New Yorkers will get a diluted and disparate view of the state of the state, something they wouldn’t get from a single speech delivered at a single location to all the legislators representing all regions.

The move is also self-serving in that it will distract attention from Gov. Cuomo’s problems. While turning the speech into a traveling carnival puts the spotlight on the governor, it also allows him to avoid being a stationary target for questions over the scandals and economic development failures that have plagued his tenure.

And don’t get sucked into any nonsense about him doing this because of a desire to bring his message directly to the people. With our collective ability to watch the message live on TV and on our computers, and with a contingent of state capitol reporters tweeting every word, there’s no likelihood that any New Yorker interested in the state of the state would be able to miss the message. In fact, this is an avoidably expensive and disjointed way to deliver the message.

The decision by Gov. Cuomo to take his state-of-the-state message out of Albany is nothing more than a campaign strategy designed to put the governor in the best light and take attention away from the legislators, who are left behind looking unimportant, inept and ignored.

This might be an effective way for the governor to deliver his own message. But it doesn’t seem like an effective way to govern.


Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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