Brooklyn-boy David Paterson came home to a friendly crowd this morning to talk about the budget crisis and it was almost all good.
Oh, you thought he was from Long Island? That might be because just a couple weeks ago when the gov opened his now defunct election campaign in Hempstead on Long Island where — as Newsday’s William Murphy notes — he was introduced by the mayor of Hempstead Village as a “native son.” Well, that was a slip-up. Just like those old official biographies in the Red Book — the state directory — which claimed for years that the former state senator from Harlem “grew up in the district.” Another slip-up.
No, he is Brooklyn-born, and the hometown crowd in the ornate second floor ballroom at Borough Hall gave him a standing O when he came and when he left. Paterson was on his game — proving that when it comes to rolling out figures and making reasonable and persuasive arguments he is as good as they get these days. “We are going to have to make cuts that I wouldn’t have believed a few years ago,” he told crowd. “What I came here to tell you today is that we are crossing that Rubicon from recession into something else.”
He took a couple dozen questions and dispatched them all with relative ease.
He took some small flak from council member Tish James about both Atlantic Yards and his proposed soda “fat tax” proposal which she said was “regressive.” The governor, seated cross-legged in a wooden chair on a platform, said that the decision on the Yards happened on someone else’s watch and that he is now just going along with an appeals court decision on it, one that “surprised him.”
As for the soda tax, he quickly trotted out the stats: $7.5 billion in health-related expenses due to diabetes and other sugar-tied killers. He went down a laundry list of obesity measurements. When he said that “80 percent of African American women are overweight” there was a loud grumble from the crowd that included many female African Americans. He quickly amended himself. “Well, 79,” he said.
When a final questioner launched into a lengthy monologue of complaint, the gov interrupted: “Do me a favor,” he said, “before your Town Hall meeting starts, can you let me finish mine?”
He is our funniest governor, and if this was all he had to deal with you see him coping quite nicely. But he ended on a sour note, intentionally or not. “We want to try to restore your trust in government. So when government tells you something you’ll believe it true.” Then he went outside and took questions from a true cluster fuck of press — some 20 cameras, a few score reporters — where he repeated his week-old insistence that, on his attorney’s advice, he cannot discuss the two cases where he is suspected of lying. Then he got into a giant black SUV and drove away across the plaza.