With a flourish, Gov. George E. Pataki signed a proclamation Wednesday in front of City Hall.
"Batavia's now the official capital of New York," he said, as about 200 people gathered around him clapped and cheered.
The city became the first "Capital for a Day," part of a program Pataki said would bring state government back to the people. State agencies set up shop and conducted business at Genesee Community College for the day.
"For too long, state government was too far removed," Pataki said. "The idea here is to bring the government to all different corners of the state." The capital will move to Ogdensburg for a day in the fall, and a third site is being discussed.
"I'm really not here to talk as much as to listen," Pataki said. His day in Batavia included a tour of United Memorial Hospital and a town hall meeting at GCC.
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Pataki also signed legislation allowing Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. to open the Batavia Downs harness track. OTB bought the track three years ago for $2.5 million but was unable to make deals with other tracks until recently.
OTB's president and chief executive officer, Martin C. Basinait, said it is doubtful races will be run at Batavia Downs this year, but the track plans a six-month race meet in 2O02, opening around Aug. 1.
At GCC, state departments, including those State, Health and Insurance, provided information at booths set up all over campus. At the mobile office of the Department of Motor Vehicles, people could renew their licenses and registrations and check their driving records.
"We're prepared to be a DMV office the best we can," said Joan Gottwald, marketing coordinator for the DMV.
Noticeable was the lack of a line for any of the DMV's services. It was early in the morning, so it hadn't attracted too much attention yet, Gottwald said.
"We've been helping the other exhibitors," she said. "We're usually pretty busy because people know we're here."
Across the hall, William F. Pelgrin, executive deputy commissioner for the Office of Technology, was showing people how they could view the state on a computer. He clicked on a program that showed a moving picture of the New York landscape, much like the view from a low-flying airplane.
"You can start in Buffalo and literally without clicking fly over the entire state" once the program is completed, Pelgrin said. Landmarks will be noted, and clicking on them will link the viewer to their Web sites.
Pelgrin hopes that the program will be up and running sometime next year. "We want to make sure it's accessible" to all people, he said.
Representatives of Pelgrin's office will be at Eden Town Hall on Tuesday to hear what people think of Pataki's e-commerce initiative, "Government Without Walls."
Jamaal Crooks, 19, a GCC student, thought it was great to see state government in his back yard.
"I think it's amazing that Pataki's coming here, of all places," he said. "I think it's good for the school."
One of his classmates, Betsy Wheeler, 28, said she had plenty to do at the booths.
"I'm going to get my daughter's car seat checked out" at the State Police booth, she said. She also went to the Consumer Protection Board booth, where she could register to block unwanted telemarketing calls. "I got my name on the list, so no phone calls," she said.
In all the excitement, Wheeler confessed she felt a little anxious.
"I'm a little worried I'm going to run into Gov. Pataki and not recognize him," she said.
Not everyone approved of moving the state government. In a news release issued Wednesday, H. Carl McCall, state comptroller and a Democratic candidate for governor, said Pataki should spend his time working on a budget instead of traveling around the state.
Genesee County Correspondent Bill Brown also contributed to this report.