Pataki's Pap

The make-believe governor spins his boomtime fantasy

"And now Cuomo's cut a deal with the mayor of New York," Pataki told suburban Buffalo shoppers a few days before the election, "to send our tax dollars down to New York City to bail them out of their budget problems in exchange for political support."

A Times editorial this week pointedly assailed D'Amato, whom it will not endorse, for these poisonous ads, but took a different tack with the governor. In its bottom paragraphs, the editorial said Pataki couldn't "dodge responsibility," and that it was "incredible" that he was "allowing" the state party, which sponsored the vilest of the recent ads, to get so nasty. The editorial did not note, as a Times reporter had the day before, that Pataki had displaced D'Amato as the party's "chief fundraiser," making him the guy who picked up the tab on ads that portrayed "Sheldon Silver and the New York City liberals" as "sharks."

Nor did the Times cite the track record of anticity attacks by Pataki chronicled on its own edit page:

  • "His school aid and property tax cut formulas are almost brazen in the way they discriminate against New York City."

  • "The Pataki administration, which distributes the federal low income tax credits" that foster affordable housing, "is not giving the city its fair share, directing them instead to upstate developers."

  • By joining a dairy cartel that could drive up milk prices 10 percent, Pataki was "taxing poor mothers" so he could "subsidize his supporters in upstate dairy communities."

  • His "deep, unwarranted cuts in state aid to the operating and capital sides of mass transit" provoked the largest fare increase in history, far more than the suburban lines, "amounting to a deliberate policy of picking out city riders for punishment."

  • His welfare proposals, including a "Draconian 40 percent cut" in the benefit levels, "punished the city."

  • Two years of the governor's proposed 7000-bed prison expansion unveiled Pataki as "more interested in satisfying upstate legislators who see prisons as economic development engines in their districts" than actually dealing with the crime issue.

  • His "blend of cynicism and whimsy" in the selection of a "novice judge" for lieutenant governor, Mary Donohue, "caters solely to upstate."

  • His push for the "biggest change in admission standards in 30 years" at CUNY--making it "virtually the only public university to bar remedial education"--was in sharp contrast with his hands-off policy on remediation at all 14 of the state university's four-year colleges.


    No pretense will make George Pataki an evenhanded governor. Neither can an ad make this a boomtime, other than on Wall Street.

    Rudy Giuliani was the preordained winner of 1997, with every newspaper in his pocket from the outset, but at least he had what appeared to be a record of achievement. The people, rightly or wrongly, credited him for the dramatic reduction in crime. The force of his own personality--everything from his energetic visibility to his blunt and often brilliant rhetoric--made him look like a leader.

    Pataki is the antithesis of Giuliani. He has fashioned a make-believe record from the slightest economic uptick, for which he bears no discernible responsibility. He is rarely seen or heard, here or in Albany. The mandatory Sunday Times Magazine cover salute could not get beyond its title--"Bland Ambition"--to find a heart or a head worth knowing. It was one thing for the grand masters of the GOP to invent a gubernatorial candidate in 1994 and program him to wage a virtual three-sentence campaign whose core premise was that enough money and more-than-enough-of-Mario was all they needed to win. It is another thing for Pataki to be stuck on the same three sentences four years later, offering only the vision of more tax cuts if we give him a second term.

    The city media will try to protect us from the truth for another few weeks, just as they successfully camouflaged Giuliani in 1997. But George Pataki's indiscriminate assault on welfare, parole, CUNY, the tax base, school construction, legal services for the poor, and campaign-finance reform make him the most conservative governor in state history. Even the Times's fig leaf of liberalism--Pataki's pro-choice posture--is in grave doubt in view of his support for a so-called partial-birth abortion bill that the paper suggested would "outlaw most procedures used after the first trimester of pregnancy."

    Research assistance: David Kihara, David Shaftel, and Nicole White

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