Governor Cuomo yesterday had one of the biggest and boldest days of his first term, banning hydrofracking in the state while giving the green light to three upstate casinos.
Depending on where you sit on the ledge of Marcellus Shale, Cuomo’s hyrdofracking ban is either a profile in environmental courage or a misguided move that will further sink the stagnant upstate economy. And when it comes to the casinos, there is an ongoing debate about whether they will give upstate a sprinkle of Las Vegas glitter or just some Atlantic City gloom.
But what’s inarguable is the governor’s love of political insulation – making both of these controversial moves six weeks after voters headed to the polls. While saying that he had nothing to do with the timing, it’s hard to imagine so much of the state’s family business being settled without New York’s ultimate puppet master not pulling some of the strings.
It’s reminiscent of Mayor Bloomberg who insisted in 2002 that the city didn’t need to raise its property taxes -- and then reversed himself shortly after his political ally George Pataki was re-elected that November.
There’s no crime in saying that you don’t like fracking – but it’s dirty political pool when you make your decision in a voter-free vacuum. The ban was the governor’s equivalent of a presidential recess appointment – not letting upstate residents have their say at the ballot box about an issue that literally affects their backyards.
Cuomo’s caution likely won’t change in his second term – especially with a freshly-empowered Republican majority in the State Senate. But showing New Yorkers his cards instead of hiding them would be a decent move.