(As in September's Democratic Primary, City's editorial staff is divided on its endorsement for governor. Endorsements from both sides follow, with the staff majority first.)
Andrew Cuomo isn't a perfect governor, and some of his shortcomings are as serious as his critics say. We, too, are disturbed by his meddling in the work of the Moreland Commission and by the way he has tried to avoid debates during the election. We're troubled by his non-position on hydrofracking. Given the state's extensive investigation into the process Cuomo ought to have developed a position by now. We suspect that he is amenable to fracking but doesn't want to say so before the election.
We're not fans of Cuomo's campaign-period tax-rebate checks. And we question the wisdom of his Start-Up NY program. Why should one business receive subsidies and a similar, possibly competing business not get them? Why should employees of some businesses avoid paying state income taxes and not others? And given Cuomo's clout, he could have taken more progressive stands on some issues: corporate welfare and economic inequality, for instance.
But his critics minimize the importance of many of his accomplishments, and those far outweigh his faults.
Under Cuomo, there has been a strong sense of competent, effective government, compared to his recent predecessors. And he has shown a unique ability to work with both parties in the State Legislature and get things done — including four on-time budgets.
Cuomo may be heavy-handed, but as many problems as that has created, it has resulted in some remarkable accomplishments. If he hadn't been as forceful as he was on marriage equality and gun control, for instance, and if he hadn't been as adept as he is in working with both Republicans and Democrats, those things wouldn't have happened.
Cuomo has focused more on Upstate economic development than any recent governor, and the State Legislature is following his lead. We now have New York City legislators who talk as if they actually know where Upstate is.
And Cuomo's Upstate efforts extend well beyond the Buffalo Billion. In the Town of Greece, for example, the state is building a nanotech facility that will be equipped for solar cell and semiconductor research and development. The state will own the property and equipment, but companies and their employees will use it. It's a better approach than the traditional subsidies that the state would otherwise hand these companies to move here.
The governor has also made it a point to bolster some emerging food, beverage, and agricultural industries in Upstate New York. Recognizing the growth potential among the state's breweries, wineries, and distilleries, the governor directed agencies to simplify permitting processes.
Cuomo's record on education is a complex one. Like his recent predecessors, he hasn't increased funding to the levels that many educators believe is needed. And he shares some views with education reformers that many teachers don't like: he supports teacher evaluations that are linked to state tests, merit pay for exceptional teachers, and the Common Core. While he hasn't been pro-union, he hasn't tried to destroy the unions the way that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has. Cuomo has supported universal prekindergarten, and he wants to spend $2 billion over five years to upgrade school technology.
He has been a strong, eloquent supporter of women's equality, and although unsuccessful, he fought hard for the adoption of the Women's Equality Act, which he proposed. The Assembly has passed the entire 10-point bill, but the Senate passed nine and omitted the 10th point, so Cuomo hasn't been able to sign any of it into law.
Nine of the act's 10 points have not been controversial. They include provisions strengthening women's rights to equality in the workplace and adding protections involving sexual harassment and domestic violence.
The 10th point, which Senate Republican leaders have refused to bring to a vote, would match state law with the protections established in Roe v. Wade. New York's abortion laws predate that Supreme Court decision, and they omit a protection that would allow a woman to get an abortion past 24 weeks of pregnancy if her health is in danger.
That 10th point is crucial; if the Supreme Court throws out Roe v. Wade — not a remote possibility — a stronger New York law would guarantee protections that state law doesn't provide now. And we are confident that Cuomo will continue to push for passage of those protections in his second term.
While we're concerned about how Cuomo has dealt with fracking, and about his failure to adequately fund the Department of Environmental Conservation, he has had a reasonably good record on the environment. He called for reforming the brownfields program, although he could secure extension for only another year. And he and his administration have helped sound the alarm about climate change.
Climate change, in fact, has given Cuomo a chance to demonstrate another strength: his ability to respond well to a natural disaster, which he did when Superstorm Hurricane Sandy struck New York City.
And perhaps one of Andrew Cuomo's most important strengths is one that is too often overlooked: he has not only managed significant accomplishments such as gun control and marriage equality, but he has done so in a large, complicated state. New York, as Cuomo pointed out recently, is extremely diverse. There are pockets of incredible wealth and high poverty. Its residents include multiple ethnic groups; passionate liberals and passionate conservatives; rural, suburban, and dense urban communities; Upstate and downstate.
State legislators represent small, often relatively homogenous populations. They can serve the narrow interests of their constituents. A governor, however, has to represent them all. Cuomo has done that while pushing the state in the right direction.
That's more than enough reason to endorse him for another term.
His candidate for lieutenant governor is former Representative Kathy Hochul, who represented the Buffalo area well in her brief service from 2011 to 2013.