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How much should politicians elected statewide know about Rochester?

Senator Chuck Schumer has set the bar very high, as he comes here frequently and always demonstrates knowledge about our community. No issue is too small for our senator, who managed to “out pothole Senator Pothole.” Schumer has been ridiculed for bandwagoning on issues making headlines, but the man understands that “all politics is local.”

Perhaps it’s not fair to hold other statewide politicians to this standard. They’re extremely busy people and Rochester is only the third-largest city (with the second-largest economy) in the state.

But I suspect we have a couple statewide politicians who don’t know a lot about us.

There was the Senator Kirsten Gillibrand debacle, in which she couldn’t name our largest employer (or any of them) after giving a speech without any local references.

Then there was the shocking event where Governor Andrew Cuomo confessed he knew nothing about the Midtown project. That was astonishing, considering there’s a hole in the middle of the downtown of the state’s third-largest city (with the second-largest economy). It was even more incredible, because his running mate was responsible for that hole and the state paid $55 million to create that hole.

Last week, Cuomo was at the U of R supercomputer announcement. He gave a speech about how each region of the state had its own economy and distinct assets. He didn’t mention anything specific about Rochester.

I asked him after the press conference what is on his wish list for Rochester. Here’s what he said:

That Rochester does what Rochester thinks it should do. For too many years, state government in Albany thought they could dictate to Rochester or they could tell the Finger Lakes what was best for the Finger Lakes. I do it the exact opposite way…those who are closest to the community know best and we’ve organized the Finger Lakes and they decide their own future and they tell us how we can be helpful to them rather than vice versa.

Cuomo could have said something like, “I would like Eastman Business Park to become the most high-tech hub in the state.” Or he could have said, “I hope Midtown Plaza is built up with companies and housing and entertainment.” In his answer, the governor did not demonstrate any specific knowledge about the region.

As for the regional economic council system he referenced, Rochester got shorted in funding. As for local control, today we read the state is hatching a plan to impose control boards on financially struggling municipalities.

Lieutenant Governor and former mayor Bob Duffy has said Cuomo is engaged and trusts him to keep him posted on local issues. Maybe Cuomo defers to Duffy’s expertise on Rochester stuff. But the buck stops at the top.

It’s also interesting to note, on that same day Cuomo gave a vague answer when Syracuse reporters asked him about their big boondoggle, the Destiny USA project.

When you (infrequently) come to Rochester, expect some Rochester questions.

Links of the Day:

– Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce hydrofracking guidelines soon. An Albany Times Union columnist has an inside look at what this will mean for the state.

– Jamestown wants to become the Cooperstown of comedy, building on the legacy of Lucille Ball.

– The Syracuse Post-Standard has a poignant look at how some neighbors are trying to take back their block from thugs.

– A new ShopRite store opened and people declared it better than Wegmans. Say it ain’t so!

6 Responses to Some Specifics, Please

  1. You would think that even if a politician didn’t take the time to cram before visiting a city, that someone on their staff would at least give them a dossier to look over in the car before they arrive at a speaking event. It is insulting and sad that they couldn’t take 5 minutes to brush up on the issues most important to their local constituents.

  2. Rachel: Excellent reporting. You are dead on target about Gillibrand and Cuomo’s lame answers, demonstrating that these alleged political brain trusts can’t even manage to have someone buy them some index cards, so that they might better fake their knowledge and interest in the state’s 2nd largest economy (according to the Brookings Institute, Greater Rochester may have the best, most dynamic economy in the nation). Way to go, Rachel.

    -Christopher J. Wilmot, Pittsford, NY

  3. Even rock stars and stand-up comedians do a little research. A nationally-know comic did a routine on the strange way we pronounce some of our towns’ names. The lead singer of Trans-Siberian Railroad announced that he couldn’t wait to go to Dinosaur Barbecue. It really doesn’t take much time, and it connects you to your audience, whether you are a comedian or a politician (or both, in some cases).

    • August 7, 2012 at 9:54 am Rachel responds:

      Yes, as someone pointed out on my Facebook page, make a joke about a Garbage Plate or Wegmans…something!

  4. Pingback: Give Cities Some Respect » The Rochesterian

  5. Pingback: Cuomo on the Bus » The Rochesterian

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