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Cuomo’s stopped offering change

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By Michael Benjamin in NY Post 10/23/12

Two years from now, Gov. Cuomo will be running for re-election. It’s not too early to ask if he deserves our respect or our love.

That question comes courtesy of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who says it’s better to be “respected than loved.” That ethos has kept his policy agenda moving forward.

Cuomo, on the other hand, seems to have dropped his UnDemocrat persona — that refreshing, bold governing style that was decisive, free of political gamesmanship and unburdened by ideological baggage. These days, he seems anything but decisive.

Start with his endless navel-gazing over whether “to frack or not to frack.” The question should be how quickly to move ahead, to jump-start growth in a region whose economy is in serious cardiac arrest.

Cuomo: “UnDemocrat” has grown painfully indecisive.

Cuomo’s dithering has disheartened Southern Tier landowners, gas companies and New Yorkers eager for work.

In a recent Siena survey of economic confidence, 50 percent of New Yorkers said our nation’s best days are behind us. I have no doubt that the anemic upstate economy accounts for much of that pessimism — especially since the same poll showed wide support for increasing domestic oil and natural gas production.

Adding to the incoherence of his energy policy, he wants to close Indian Point and coal-fired power plants without first having in place any concrete plan or schedule for bringing replacement power online.

What of the rest of his economic policy? Cuomo seeks to expand gambling across the state and save the horse-racing industry. But his New York City convention-center casino plan died of embarrassment, with no replacement yet in place.

And his replacement board for the scandal-plagued New York Racing Authority is full of past board members.

Nor has he made any truly bold moves, such as reaching out to Indian gaming corporations or even looking to legalize professional mixed martial arts. These are low-hanging economic-development fruits, withering on the vine.

Reforming Albany’s political culture also seems to have slowed as a priority. The Cuomo-inspired Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has been hobbled by leaks and weak leadership.

Some attribute Cuomo’s slippage to presidential ambitions: An UnDemocrat might not gain traction in the early primaries. And conventional wisdom says Cuomo can’t keep on cutting services and public-employee benefits and expect to survive politically.

But the governor should be more concerned about New Yorkers’ economic survival.

Rather than giving us another Power Point presentation, Cuomo should convene a Cabinet summit to address the state of his government. His administration must answer four questions: What are we doing that helps? What are we doing that hurts? What could we do better? What do our people and business community need?

In fact, Cuomo is posing those questions — but only to assess the effectiveness of his 10 regional economic development councils. He needs to turn the examining mirror on himself.

After all, he promised an open, transparent and self-critical government.

I suggest that he reboot the UnDemocrat, go back to overturning tables at the Capitol and driving forward an economic plan that uplifts all distressed communities.

Then he, like Christie, will learn that respect earns love.

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