On the heels of his budget success, Gov. Cuomo is blazing through New York, selling an agenda he has dubbed his "People First Campaign." In the governor's words, the campaign is designed to make the economy in New York better and to return us to being the Empire State by focusing on:
-property tax caps
-social progress - particularly same-sex marriage.
So how do the people think the governor is doing?
According to a Siena poll conducted May 11-17, 2011, 9 percent give him an "A," 35 percent give him a "B." 37 percent give him a "C," and the rest score him lower. If we're going to get New York moving again, we need a consistently higher performance from our chief executive.
Is such a thing possible? Well in this case the answer is yes, but the governor is going to have to adjust his agenda and quick. The reason is pretty simple. There are only a few more days left in the legislative session, and the governor has placed too much emphasis on his "social progress" agenda.
Most New Yorkers agree with the property tax caps, especially when coupled with meaningful mandate relief. However, less than a quarter believe ethics reform should be the priority. A whopping 83 percent think any one of the governor's priorities is more important than same-sex marriage. Even rent control in New York City ranked higher.
It really gets interesting when you examine the views of those who actually know how to create jobs and get the economy moving. Progressive issues like same-sex marriage either don't show up or are so low on the list of things that need to happen to get the economy moving that it makes it more likely that the only reason the issue shows up on the Siena poll at all is BECAUSE the governor has made it his priority.
Members polled by the chamber of commerce, Unshackle Upstate, and the statewide Business Council consistently list several concrete initiatives that are necessary to get us moving again, none of which smack of progressive, and most of which do not even make the governor's list of priorities!
Equally compelling is the list of priorities provided by labor organizations. Noticeably missing from the agenda of NYSCOPBA (corrections), CSEA (state employees), and several private-sector unions is any reference to the governor's progressive agenda - including same-sex marriage.
Evidently New Yorkers at large have a pretty good handle on what our priorities should be and what we need to do to fix New York. So where's the disconnect? Look no further than the governor's agenda! Cuomo has stated that he sees himself and the people on one side, and the Legislature and lobbyists on the other. He blames the problem on special-interest lobbyists. He's right, of course, except for one problem: The same-sex marriage lobby is THE special interest that has dominated Albany for years now, and it is HIS special interest.
In an attempt to combat this dilemma, Cuomo has stated emphatically that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. New Yorkers aren't buying that, either. In fact, according to the same Siena poll, most black New Yorkers (who actually were affected by the racism that led to the civil rights movement) strongly oppose same-sex marriage. This is consistent with the national trend among blacks including President Obama. Failing to make the civil rights case or the economics case, same-sex marriage is simply a matter of special-interest-fueled Albany politics as usual.
Reform cannot come when the reformers are knee-deep in special interests themselves. In my opinion, and in accordance with the will of the people, the governor and Legislature should abandon same-sex marriage and any other variants of the social progress agenda, and focus on OUR priorities for the remainder of the session. That would truly put the will of the "People First."
Dave Kimmel lives in Cadyville and was a candidate for the state's 114th Assembly District last year.