We understand why other upstate cities are covetous of the billion dollars' worth of affection that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is prepared to lavish on Buffalo. They want some loving, too. We might feel the same in their shoes.
Yet, those cities are missing the larger point, one that Cuomo understands and that should help him stay firm in his commitment. Buffalo, the state's second-largest city, is failing worse than others. Those two facts -- the city's size and its long-term trajectory -- send damaging reverberations throughout the state economy.
Taxpayers in every corner of the state, from Times Square to Saranac Lake, are subsidizing Buffalo to a greater extent than they are any other city. It is in all New Yorkers' interest for the state to help push Buffalo across the line to becoming a net contributor to the state's economy rather than a drag on it.
What is more, as Cuomo also observed, Buffalo simply hasn't gotten its fair share from Albany, where the focus has been on the downstate behemoth and, under the influence of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno of Troy, the Albany region itself. There were few complaints from around the state when the state invested billions of dollars in turning the state capital into a hub of the nanotechnology industry.
Now it is up to Buffalo to attract businesses that would like to take advantage of Cuomo's offer -- and given land values and the quality of the work force here, that should be achievable -- and for Cuomo to hold fast. In his visit to Buffalo on Wednesday, the governor gave no indication that he would do otherwise.
During his time here, Cuomo touched on many issues the region and state face, from retaining the Buffalo Bills to the financially and educationally urgent matter of producing a system of teacher evaluations. Without such a system, the state cannot access $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds and, to encourage the racalcitrant education bureaucracy -- mainly, the unions -- he has said he will withhold increases in state education funding to districts that fail to do the job. It's a powerful inducement.
As the governor incredulously observed, education is one of the two biggest cost centers in state government -- the other is health -- yet there are virtually no measurements of performance for those who are paid taxpayer dollars to do the job. Those standards are urgently needed if the state is to have a yardstick by which to produce improvement in the classroom and to lay claim to Washington's $700 million.
Cuomo made several other points during his visit -- repeating his pledge to veto politically based redistricting, insisting the state will make its own decision on hydrofracking based on facts -- and in each showed himself to be the kind of governor New Yorkers hoped for when they gave him an overwhelming majority in 2010.
Cuomo can point to a significant list of accomplishments during his year in office, but one of the biggest is managing to change the public perception of Albany as incompetent. Now he hopes to get the people of Western New York believing in the future.
A difficult budget season stretches out over the coming two months, but Cuomo, thus far, has showed himself to be a governor whom New Yorkers can trust. Whoever heard of such a thing?