ALBANY, NY - Andrew Cuomo begins his tough uphill climb Saturday to prove that a governor in New York matters. It hasn't for a while. The special-interest-controlled Legislature chewed up and spat out the last three governors, leaving the Empire State in worse and worse shape. Each governor had a completely different style. Each ultimately learned the same message: The Legislature does only what the Legislature wants to do. George Pataki's laissez-faire approach, and his shifting political ideology after his first two years, made him less a leader - and more an accessory to the crime. Then hard-charging Eliot Spitzer promised everything wrong with Albany would change on Day 1. In the end, the self-professed steamroller was the one who got rolled, resigning after less than 15 months amid a hooker scandal. His former No. 2, David Paterson, was a genial former state senator whom his ex-colleagues never took seriously, and rightly so because his scandals and ineptitude overshadowed any nominal achievements. Now there is Cuomo, the son of the former three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo, who is remembered more for running an ethical administration than for any major accomplishments. Andrew Cuomo says he's learned from history. Let's hope.
The to-do list is long: fixing the state's broken economy, stemming the upstate exodus - and restoring faith in government are just the start. "Where we are now, this state government has nothing to do with the state government of 20 years ago, 25 years ago," Cuomo told the Daily News Editorial Board in October. "The power migrated from the governor, at large, to the Legislature. And the power migrated from the business community to the public sector unions in Albany." In order for New York to be saved, Cuomo said, "you have to correct both." He looks back at Nelson Rockefeller and Hugh Carey as governors who wielded their power well, along with Mario Cuomo. "My father sometimes was a very powerful governor," he insisted. In dealing with a hostile Legislature that has made life hell for many a governor, Cuomo ultimately knows that public empowerment is the key to maximizing his clout. "You can be their best friend, or their worst enemy," Cuomo said. He'd better be right - nothing less than New York's future is at stake. firstname.lastname@example.org