Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his annual State of the State speech today in Albany, talking for about an hour and a half about his plans for New York. Voice political reporters David Colon and Aaron Gordon kept their eyes open for the entire thing, and tried to interpret what the governor’s yearly display of rhetoric and puffery will mean for actual New Yorkers.
David Colon: Good afternoon, politics fans, and welcome to the State of the State speech.
The first stop on the Road to BudgetMania!!!
Aaron Gordon: As we absorb this hype muzak on the live stream, David, why don’t you give me a rundown of the things you’re looking out for in Governor Cuomo’s address?
DC: “Hype muzak” really does fit, by the way; this is not your Kenny G hold music.
Personally, I’m looking forward to three things. One is to hear about the study of the extension of the 1 train into Red Hook, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s opening the door to massively upzoning a neighborhood that was literally underwater five-plus years ago.
AG: We’re getting some sweet synth-piano accents now. Continue.
DC: The next is voting reform, the only pieces of which I predict will pass are the ones keeping our electoral systems safe from the dreaded Russians.
And third, I’d honestly love it if at some point Governor Cuomo uttered the words “Joe Ricketts, retire, bitch.” But that’s just me being greedy. Aaron, you’re also huddling in the warmth of indoors watching this speech, what are you hoping to hear from the state’s Pragmatic Progressive?
AG: I’m with you on the Red Hook extension, as I’m trying to figure out if it’s just another Cuomo “F You” to de Blasio. “You wanna build a little streetcar? That’s cute…I want to EXTEND THE FREAKIN’ SUBWAY.”
DC: Love our big alpha boys.
AG: Speaking of “F You”s to de Blasio, the big focus for me is the congestion pricing issue. Cuomo first brought it up in August when he called it an idea “whose time has come.” He then convened a panel to study it in October. The rumor is he will at least officially endorse it today, but I want specifics and some semblance of a time frame. Either way, we’re going to learn how much Cuomo truly wants to see congestion pricing enacted or how much it’s just another talking point in his spat with the mayor.
DC: It will start big, I’m sure, and end up as something like “tax credits to take a taxi over an East River bridge” by the time the budget comes around.
Apparently the Mets are in the building, for a so-far unexplained reason.
Among those here for #NYSOTS: The Mets.
Sandy Alderson, Brandon Nimmo, TJ Rivera among those here. pic.twitter.com/GBj1IjcQ6G
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) January 3, 2018
AG: Because when New Yorkers think of “well-managed enterprises,” they think of the Mets.
DC: I wonder if it has something to do with the Wilpons’ involvement in the Islanders coming to Belmont Park (a return that won’t cost taxpayers a dime, as you went over).
AG: Or to reiterate, the Mets are purchasing the Syracuse Chiefs, which in theory matters for some reason.
DC: Little did we know this whole time that Brandon Nimmo is an excellent transit money lobbyist and will get that Belmont Park station money wrapped up tonight.
AG: The live-stream hold music is now a very low-budget Grimes knockoff.
DC: I’ll be legit disappointed if this music wasn’t somehow paid for as part of an upstate development grant.
AG: Out of the MTA’s budget.
DC: “Muzak is the future,” Governo Cuomo wrote in a press release, “which is why I’m diverting $348 million from the MTA to construct a state-of-the-art smooth jazz development lab in Utica.”
That’s, uh…a lot of empty seats so far.
AG: Late-August Marlins–Mets attendance levels right there.
DC: By the way, Aaron, did you know that “excelsior” means “ever upward”? You will have this drilled into your head writing about state politics for even a week. Every time I see that slogan, I can’t help but think of “Upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.”
AG: Google’s dictionary defines its modern usage as “used in the names of hotels, newspapers, and other products to indicate superior quality.”
New York State: a product of superior quality.
DC: If I were governor, that would be our new motto. Which is one of the many, many reasons I will never be governor.
AG: According to Google Translate, Latin for “Fix the subway” is “in subway figere.”
DC: What’s Latin for “You will never be president”?
DC: Got ’immmmm.
AG: This speech is running on MTA time, I see.
DC: The one State of the Borough speech I participated in ran much more smoothly, I think? It was also eleven years ago, but I’m just going to assume it did.
Hell yeah, the jurists of the state’s Court of Appeals, now we’re getting somewhere.
AG: We’re off and running now.
I’m always blown away by how no politician has ever had a properly fitting suit.
DC: Distinguished members of the New York State senate are horse trading their seats already.
Politicians and cops both dress way better in the movies. I think the entrances could stand to have a little more pizzazz. Get, like, the Knicks entrance music for the legislators.
AG: It’s got the aura of a high school choir performance.
DC: Right, we gotta liven it up. Governor Cuomo can enter to “The Game.” I’m gonna play that on my computer when he walks in and see how it syncs up.
AG: Mayor de Blasio is there to make fart noises every time Cuomo says “congestion pricing.”
DC: A very tall heckler has logged on.
AG: Everyone is running late because Marty Golden parked in front of the door.
DC: The man is out of control, folks.
I wish it was Tim Wu welcoming us to the State of the State address. OK, am I hearing things or did people boo Jeff Klein as he walked across the stage?
AG: I heard a few boos. Although they could have been very low-toned “heeeeeey”s. Hard to tell.
Anyway, Cuomo’s finally here. Maybe this party can finally get started.
DC: OK, I can report that it fucking rocks to watch Cuomo enter to Triple H’s theme song. He really should have done this.
AG: Cuomo entering the SotS like Vince McMahon, wagging his arms in triumph.
DC: On the way to steal yo progressive bona fides.
AG: There it is.
DC: I don’t think I’ve ever heard an invocation ask to protect “infrastructure and private property rights.”
AG: “Please, protect the riches collected by the wealthy from the heathen poors.”
It’s kinda fucked up they get religious leaders to bless the governor, no?
DC: Oh yeah, I mean every invocation where various politicians are blessed. Super weird. But yeah, these soaring invocations do not match the pettiness of the state’s actual politics.
AG: “May the Lord bless our governor’s ability to burn a local reporter who asks a question he doesn’t like.”
Anyway, to our readers wondering why the hell we aren’t talking about what Cuomo’s saying, it’s because the invocations are still going.
DC: Two invocations!
Ah, we got burned, the second invocation person asked God to stop cynicism in politics while we were crackin’ jokes. Who will be brave enough to kneel during the anthem?
AG: I will stop being cynical about politics as soon as there’s no longer anything about which to be deeply cynical.
DC: What’s Charles Barron doing? I want a camera on him.
AG: OH MY GOD GOVERNOR CUOMO IS KNEELING I wish I could say truthfully.
“The Dark Knight Rises”–ass chorus doing the anthem like that scene where Bane blows up the football stadium.
AG: Did you happen to catch how the ID badges everyone is wearing say “EXCELSIOR” in large font at the top?
DC: “EXCELSIOR” MEANS “EVER UPWARD.”
Finally, here comes the Big Boy. Surprised he didn’t drive FDR’s car up to the podium.
AG: Minor technical glitch as I have lost my internet connection.
DC: Well, we started off with a lesson that the judges don’t clap for anything ever, and a salute to our police for keeping us from being killed by terrorism. So you haven’t missed much yet. Basically going over how 2017 sucked because of terror attacks and anti-Semitic threats.
AG: He’s been working on his pronunciation of “Puerto Rico.”
DC: He’s Running.
He keeps doing this thing where he sounds like Pacino in Scarface in the word immediately after “Puerto Rico.”
AG: He doesn’t turn off the accent for, like, five words, where it slowly fades into his regular voice. It’s incredible.
DC: Governor Al Smith.
DC: “Upstate New York is no longer treated as the forgotten stepchild of Albany.”
We now rig bids for upstate just like we do downstate.
AG: “Go Bills!” he says three times, which makes it three more times than he’s ever said, “The MTA is my responsibility.”
DC: Took more responsibility for the Bills than for the subway.
AG: Good news, David! Unemployment is down and success is up.
AG: “Look at this chart from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics” gets my politics juices flowing.
DC: Wait, where was his dad? This is psychotic!
AG: He is now actually explaining this by saying his mom would be mad at him.
DC: “I can’t compare myself to my dad in front of my mom.”
AG: This is real. Not a joke. A lightning bolt would “strike me dead.”
DC: This is completely psychotic.
AG: Now, sincerely (I think) he says there “is no comparison of any governor to Mario Cuomo.” This is absolutely insane.
DC: “Real change for real people in real time.” Papa John’s–ass slogan.
AG: Better change. Better people. Papa Cuomo.
DC: “No other state has done what we have done.” Like…delay the $15 minimum wage until 2019. Er, 2020.
AG: “2018 may be the toughest year New York has faced in modern political history.”
DC: I guess he’s not wrong, everything sucks out there.
AG: Now he’s talking about ending discrimination and sexism. Bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it works.
DC: Oh man, these slides are all so good.
AG: Now he’s railing against the federal government, which is always a crowd-pleaser.
DC: A whole lotta rolling back from the federal government.
AG: He said “rolling back” more often than a mid-2000s Walmart commercial.
DC: “Like Fat Joe, the federal government wants to lean back while New York is sent down the tubes.”
AG: 1:55 p.m. review: Cuomo has said absolutely nothing of substance so far.
DC: Ah, more Latin, “carpe diem” this time.
AG: And just like that, he says something of substance! He proposes no public funds be used to settle sexual harassment claims.
DC: Good idea.
AG: In other news, public funds can be used to fund sexual harassment settlements.
DC: A shout-out to the Reproductive Health Act. (Which will never get Roe v. Wade into state law while the GOP controls the state senate!)
AG: A proposal for a government-wide whistle-blower system. Seems good.
DC: It’s weird to learn things like we don’t already have a statewide standard for sexual harassment and whistle-blowers.
AG: It’s almost as if this was an issue he didn’t care about until three months ago!
DC: “Localities can just wing it, what could go wrong?”
AG: Now he’s transitioned to racial discrimination, where of course he mixed in a reference to his father once again.
DC: Ooh, another thing for the bingo card of “This will not pass this year.”
AG: Bail reform: A person is only held if they’re a flight risk or threat to public safety. Otherwise, they’re released.
(Bail bondsmen become highest-spending lobbyists in New York State in 2018.)
DC: If only there was a party that believed this too that could…control…a half of the legislature…
Hey, as long as you’re bringing up Kalief Browder, why not propose closing Rikers as per the Lippman Report?
AG: Cuomo is talking about very important things and everyone is clapping for Browder’s brother who is there but I want to just say real quickly Cuomo is drinking water out of a wine glass. Carry on.
DC: Cuomo is promising to close jails that are too abusive for New York State.
AG: These proposed reforms sound like a step in the right direction, but “we will make it right” seems like the wrong thing to say to someone whose brother killed himself after three years in Rikers waiting for a trial hearing.
AG: I’m sure the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association won’t have any objections to having their actions formally condemned. Good thing Cuomo has such a rich history standing up to unions!
Anyway, we’re on to homelessness now.
DC: “I’m old enough to remember there were no homeless people on the street.”
Readers…I am not.
AG: He says we regard homeless people with the inhumanity as if we were walking by a mailbox…
DC: There it is.
AG: While I was finding that GIF I missed what he’s actually proposing. /millennial
DC: Something tells me the threat to withhold state funds from municipalities that don’t treat the homeless with care will somehow turn into a threat against New York City. He didn’t propose much of substance.
AG: Focus on “new” problems like terrorism and the environment, he says.
DC: He literally gave about thirty seconds to ethics reform before talking about toxic algae.
AG: “Oh yeah btw we should probably stop taking money from companies and outside investors when in office but DEATH ALGAE IS COMING FOR US.”
DC: He didn’t say how we’d clean up the dang algae.
He wants enough wind power to power 400,000 homes with clean energy. President Trump is very worried about the birds. “The opioid crisis was manufactured” by the drug industry. Governor Cuomo, go on Chapo.
AG: “We will sue them and we will stop the opioids” sounds extremely Trumpian, if I do say so myself.
DC: Not gonna lie, I’m into suing Purdue Pharma into oblivion.
AG: I’m into it but good luck, man.
DC: Come on, man, while you’re talking about unions, just say it: “Joe Ricketts, retire, bitch.”
AG: A brief bit about standing in solidarity with public sector unions given federal challenges to their legality, which definitely fills me with optimism he will stand up for meaningful MTA cost reforms.
DC: “Social media” must disclose who or what pays for political advocacy.
These are named companies, my man, name them.
AG: Now Cuomo is saying terrorists pose a new threat by listing off things they have been able to do for decades.
DC: Uh, he just ran up the line of asking ISPs to report whoever visits extremist websites.
AG: What a principled progressive.
DC: “They know who’s visiting these sites” he just kind of threw in there before moving on?
AG: Oh, I’m sorry, he’s practical, not principled. My bad.
DC: Lmao what
“I call [Penn Station] the ‘Seven Levels of Catacombs.’ They don’t like it, but it’s true.”
AG: Is he really using terrorism to justify upgrading Penn Station? Not, you know, the fact that Penn Station is an actual circle of hell?
DC: The redevelopment of Penn Station is now somehow a national security issue. Honestly, not the worst way to trick Trump into giving a bunch of money to it.
AG: It’s amazing how millions of people being inconvenienced daily isn’t enough.
DC: “Mexican cartels and, uh…Super ISIS want nothing less than a new Penn Station, Mr. President.”
AG: Cashless tolling is apparently an anti-terrorism measure?
DC: The security state is everywhere, if you want it.
How’s he gonna talk about that and not those weird ugly towers they tried to pretend were about anti-terror measures?
AG: He is talking about the subway now. It’s bad, he says, and we need to make it good (paraphrasing).
DC: Here’s your baby, Aaron, congestion pricing.
OH MY GOD IT’S A MOTHERFUCKING REPORT
AG: Hell yeah, the panel is creating a report with options for the legislature to consider.
DC: I’m mad. I can’t believe we waited for months for a congestion pricing plan and we’re gonna get a report to consider.
AG: Well, that was a whole lot of nothing.
DC: I am apoplectic.
We’re on to the shitty tax bill.
AG: Cuomo says they will challenge the federal tax bill in court as unconstitutional. As the old reporter adage says, wait to report on the lawsuit until it is filed.
DC: “State’s rights” are back, baby, and they’re good again. ::Wolf howl::
AG: So is “repeal and replace”…
Huh, Cuomo says they’re exploring the feasibility of switching from reliance on income to payroll tax. I feel like this is the type of thing you can’t really assess until you actually know what the plan is.
DC: “It’s complicated and it is difficult.”
Well, I can’t remember the last time anything described like that survived Albany.
AG: He keeps saying things like “we have no choice” about systemic issues that have existed for decades that he himself has done nothing to remedy.
DC: No, see, that’s WHY we have no choice. We had choices, we waited around for a few decades, and then, voilà!
AG: This speech has done wonders for making me feel even worse about the future.
AG: He has been extremely specific about precisely how we’re fucked but done very little to show how he plans to get us un-fucked. “We face extremely specific threats to our economic and social well-being, and in the face of those specific challenges I offer vague platitudes of our collective superiority!”
DC: “We have to expand pre-K to three-year-olds. This was my idea, no one fact-check this.”
AG: “Trickle-down economics doesn’t work” cc: Paul Ryan.
DC: Wait, we’re going to keep our healthcare…”industry” vibrant?
AG: He just called healthcare a human right, which is cool because I currently pay several hundred dollars a month for that human right.
Ah, thank you for straightening that out for me.
DC: ::Dick Gottfried mournfully looks at the New York Health Act::
Ah, an extension of the “free” college program. “We must pass the DREAM Act,” check off another IDC calamity bingo box.
We’re into the “proving the haters wrong” phase of the speech. Which seems to be going very quickly over giant infrastructure projects.
AG: Cuomo just brought up the LaGuardia AirTrain, which is one of the worst transit ideas.
DC: Let’s study a train line to Red Hook! Let’s build a tunnel from Long Island to Connecticut!
AG: Did he just propose a giant tunnel across the Long Island Sound or something?! He glossed over it so quickly I couldn’t even tell.
DC: Moving on!
The governor is every yakked-up guy at a party who has some ideas, man.
AG: That episode of Arrested Development when GOB got a job at Sitwell and listed off 150 development ideas in one meeting.
Cuomo is now celebrating in a State of the State speech that a sports team is moving within the state.
DC: Failures move back to suburbs.
Why did I just get this press release: New Yorkers Eager for Governor Cuomo to Act on His Bold Congestion Pricing Vision. WHAT VISION?
AG: He didn’t even say the words “congestion pricing” in his speech.
DC: The Syracuse Chiefs will soon be the Syracuse Mets, playing in Syracuse.
Oh man, he brought the failson Wilpon.
AG: Congratulations to everyone involved in this massive triumph for the state of New York.
DC: They just brought a bunch of random Mets who played in the minor leagues at some point.
Legitimately it IS good for the Mets that their Triple-A team is in New York, but like, that’s a thing you talk about on WFAN, not in the State of the State.
AG: Um, he just said a 407-acre park in Jamaica Bay will be the largest park in New York City. That’s not at all true. Prospect Park is more than 500 acres.
DC: “Negativity is the dominant feeling in today’s political environment,” gee I wonder why. Can’t be decades of rightward shift leading to a new Gilded Age.
AG: He’s framing his own failures as challenges that will make their future successes that much more impressive.
DC: We’re building a National Comedy Center.
AG: “The fact that I ran backwards for the first twenty minutes of this marathon will make my inevitable victory even more laudatory.”
DC: Never forget when the haters said we could never build a National Comedy Center.
AG: Literally just listing off things they’re building or businesses that are moving to New York with absolutely no context of any of these deals.
DC: They also all just had prices underneath them. “Look at all this money we’re spending on upstate Legoland and the National Comedy Center.”
I hate this speech with my life.
AG: “Don’t say we can’t spend taxpayer money on gobs of projects of dubious necessity!”
DC: Also to your point about the new park, it was not missed by people.
Central and Prospect parks, among others, are bigger. https://t.co/tsjt5ybHFr
— Dana Rubinstein (@danarubinstein) January 3, 2018
Folks, he’s just doing a victory lap of old accomplishments now.
AG: Do you think it’s almost over?
DC: God, I hope so.
Muted applause and boos for “Let me thank our legislators.” Oh my god is he gonna end it with a salute to centrism? “Thank you for passing laws. Thank you for the $15.”
AG: Why is he still talking?
DC: He’s gonna tell us to eat, pray, love.
Folks, he is literally going on about how he turned sixty and he learned what really matters.
AG: David, this is a bad speech.
He’s now repeating the beginning of the speech. Oh my god, he’s quoting Yoda from the Prequels.
DC: “Racism is bad.”
AG: He really did it folks. He quoted Yoda’s “Anger leads to fear. Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
DC: A bunch of platitudes from a white dude about how discrimination is bad is definitely going to fix this racism thing.
Fact check: “Discrimination is bad” is in fact a Democratic and not Republican idea at the moment.
AG: He just spoke for ten minutes to say the bad line “to find the way forward the president only needs to turn around.”
DC: People literally just laughed when he mentioned “E pluribus unum” was on a flag “right behind President Trump’s desk.”
AG: HE DID IT. HE CLOSED WITH “EXCELSIOR”!
AG: OK, David, what did you learn?
DC: That Andrew Cuomo will never be president.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 3, 2018