The governor of New York owes the public answers to their questions.
Unfortunately, those answers are not easy to come by these days.
That’s because Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken a new tack in dealing with the reporters from around the state who regularly cover the state capitol.
He avoids them like the plague.
Regular press conferences have been replaced by conference calls that reporters are forced to call in on to participate, even those reporters literally sitting right outside his office.
The governor hasn’t held a single press conference with the Albany press corps since the end of the legislative session in June, a streak of five-plus months and counting.
The topics of his phone conferences are often limited, and the reporters who call in don’t always get to ask questions.
In some cases, the governor’s staff suggests questions for the reporters to ask, according to a report in Friday’s New York Daily News.
The matter came to a head last week during one of those conference calls on the Republican tax bill when a Daily News reporter refused to ask one of the staff’s questions. The reporter was not called upon for the rest of the phone conference. Those reporters who did ask the staff’s questions were called upon, the News reported.
Others in the Albany press corps tweeted photos of themselves sitting outside the governor’s office during Thursday’s phone conference in protest. The governor was in Albany, but chose not to meet with reporters face-to-face.
For almost half a year, reporters have not been able to ask Cuomo directly and collectively about a number of important issues, including the pending state budget shortfall, the corruption scandals, the failure of the state’s economic development programs, state taxes and other issues vital to New Yorkers.
The governor could take a page from his father’s playbook.
The late Mario Cuomo met routinely with the capitol reporters and seemed to enjoy the intellectual lunge-and-parry of going toe-to-toe with the press.
He even spoke to reporters in non-formal settings. If you could catch him walking through the Empire State Plaza and could walk backwards fast enough to stay in front of him, he’d let reporters from even minor news organizations ask questions all the way up the elevator to his office.
Whether the current governor likes it or not, he has an obligation to the citizens of the state to regularly answer questions from the press.
To avoid them is to avoid the people he was elected to serve.