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Gov. Cuomo’s promises and problems

An air of predictability surrounds Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s visits to Buffalo these days. The governor begins the routine by inviting about 150 of his closest friends to “an announcement,” just as in Wednesday’s event at Templeton Landing on the waterfront.

Aides spend lots of time rearranging perfectly comfortable guests for some unknown reason. Then a close ally like Mayor Byron Brown, now chairman of Cuomo’s Democratic State Committee, introduces the governor.

“He is a true friend and partner to the people of Western New York,” Brown said in his Wednesday remarks.

A gifted orator, Cuomo then launches a speech about the latest state largess that has saved Buffalo from its miserable self. On Wednesday, he traveled across the state with $600,000 to sweeten the $600,000 already secured by Assemblyman Sean Ryan to help resurrect a vintage carousel at Canalside, the gleaming waterfront attraction symbolizing a Buffalo renaissance.

The 1924 Herschell-Spillman carousel built in North Tonawanda, he said, symbolizes Buffalo’s resurgence.

“That carousel belongs at Canalside, because that carousel is a perfect metaphor for the past 30 years and the past six years,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “For 30 years, we would not give up on the dream, and some people moved away, but some people held on fast to the dream.

“Buffalo is shining in a way it hasn’t shined in decades, and when we are done it will shine brighter than it has ever shone before,” he continued. “When that carousel is rebuilt, it will be a better carousel than it ever was before.”

Cuomo sticks to a consistent theme. It hinges on state money fueling a project to help rescue Buffalo.

“The hard part was getting past the cynicism and the skepticism, and getting the people of Buffalo to believe in Buffalo once again,” he repeated on Wednesday. “That was the hard part, literally convincing the people of Buffalo that there is a future after all those years of broken promises. Now, we have the energy with us and I believe in positive synergy. Just as the way there’s a negative synergy, there’s a positive synergy, and the momentum is with us.”

It makes sense that Cuomo would rely, especially following a new probe of his Buffalo Billion program, on his oh-so-familiar refrain. Lots has been accomplished here.

But on his last visit in September, news that former top aides were named in a federal bid-rigging complaint obliterated his good news of state support for the new Albright-Knox expansion. Some reporters pummeled him during a post-event press conference. Maybe that’s why he took no questions on Wednesday.

So he did the best he could – money for a carousel and the message of moving from pessimism to optimism.

Governors have stressed their favorite themes time and again for years. Cuomo’s father – Gov. Mario Cuomo – extolled the “dignity of work” at every local economic development announcement. Gov. George Pataki stressed the “failed policies of the past” right up to the end of his 12-year tenure.

After six years in office, Cuomo must now persuade Buffalo that his policies will continue to work and spread from gleaming Canalside throughout one of the nation’s poorest cities.

He promises a “Buffalo Billion II” for his January State of the State speech that may rejuvenate his message for Western New York – which has always presented a political challenge despite its Democratic enrollment.

Cuomo must now emerge from the problems his own policies have spawned. His “optimism” is now surrounded by question marks while the Manhattan U.S. attorney probes the Buffalo Billion.
His challenge now is to transcend the Buffalo Billion mess and move forward.

Now he must prevent the carousel from assuming another metaphor of politics as usual going round and round and round.

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