New York’s Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, says Buffalo matters to her. We want to share her thoughts, as a helpful reminder to the senator and the regional constituents who should hold her to her word.
It was surely encouraging to hear her tell the News Editorial Board: “This is the place for me to be. I’m here in February … I want people to be reassured because I understand how important Western New York is, I understand how important this area is. I do believe we’ll have more Democrats, frankly, who will be elected from here.”
Although Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy of Buffalo, who accompanied the majority leader, is one of only three upstate Democrats in the majority conference of 39 – and the only one here – she assures: “I don’t believe he’ll be the only voice. But while we are moving in the direction of leadership … I listen to him. It matters. And I will be here as often as I can to help reassure folks.”
In fact, she said, Senate leadership (with the suddenly re-engineered notion of “three men in a room”) is now going through the budget. Its plan is to invest all over the state, she said, while bolstering this area. That requires paying attention to what is important to the region.
The new Senate majority leader understands that New York City’s dominance in Albany does not play well here. While Western New Yorkers can be grateful to have Kennedy in the Democratic controlled Senate – and even more so that Stewart-Cousins has appointed him chairman of the powerful Transportation Committee – Western New Yorkers tend to have their own “show-me” attitude. We have to see it, to believe it. And we want to believe.
Stewart-Cousins is persuasive. She is self-assured, empathetic and emphatic. But she also has a lot on the agenda, which is where she will have to prove herself. It includes a wide-ranging criminal justice package, ethics reform, economic development and, perhaps most challenging, the plan to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Regarding the latter, she said the complexity of the issue may prevent it from being included in the state budget, which is due by April 1. That’s wise.
The political dynamic in Albany has dramatically changed. Senate Republicans and then the Independent Democratic Conference allied with the GOP could be counted on to look out for the true upstate, not just on the outer edges of Manhattan.
Now that Democrats have gained control, Western New Yorkers want assurance. Stewart-Cousins came to town and offered that. She will be taken at her word – and she can count on Western New Yorkers holding her to it.