By now you’d think Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be wary of declaring emergencies — can you say nursing homes, boys and girls? But apparently not. He was at it again Tuesday, but this time, he was all lathered up about guns.
Or at least pretending to be. As is usually the case with Cuomo, there is more to his histrionics than is obvious.
Declaring what he termed a “first-in-the-nation gun-violence-disaster emergency,” he announced the creation of an “Office of Gun Violence Prevention,” meant to oversee “a new, comprehensive strategy to build a safer New York.” And by the way, the scheme will include “a $138.7 million investment in intervention and prevention programs.”
That’s a powerful lot of money, and the point-seven-million is a nice touch. Sums that come with decimal points sound so precise and well-vetted, deceptively so when they are part of a smash-and-grab on New York’s fisc perhaps meant more to influence the Assembly’s sexual-harassment investigation of Cuomo than to get guns off city streets.
That last is just a guess, of course, but a not-unreasonable one, given the time-tested bribability of the state Legislature — and the oft-demonstrated, to-the-bone cynicism of Andrew Mark Cuomo.
Cynicism, you ask?
Well, when streets are flecked with blood from Gotham all the way to Buffalo largely because of the criminal-justice “reforms” that Cuomo encouraged and then embraced, what would you call it? The man signed bills rewriting New York’s penal code to favor violent criminals at the expense of innocent bystanders, and he rarely misses an opportunity to hector cops in particular and aggressive law enforcement generally.
These, ahem, root causes of gun violence in New York go unmentioned in Cuomo’s florid declaration of emergency: just paragraph after paragraph hanging it all on insufficient social spending. And promising to do better to the tune of the above-mentioned $138-point-7 million, a towering stack of benjamins.
This is, of course, like cream to kittens.
Which speaks directly to bribability — or at least, to what New York legislators do best: take care of the folks back home, and themselves, while this time perhaps overlooking Cuomo’s well-documented harassment transgressions and that allegedly ongoing impeachment probe.
Here’s a peek.
When Cuomo in mid-June had western New York legislators to dinner at Albany’s executive mansion, the topic was the apportionment of billions in federal infrastructure boodle. Among those present were Assemblywomen Karen McMahon and Monica Wallace, each from Erie County, each a partisan of hometown infrastructure spending — and each a member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
That is, each a member of the committee allegedly considering the impeachment of the man dangling the goodies at the mansion dinner.
If that’s not a conflict of interest, then there is no such thing — which, in ethics-flexible Albany, there is not.
And this is just a snapshot. When you consider the infrastructure cash tsunami that soon is to break over New York; the governor’s power over how that money will be spent; what that means to the state’s construction unions alone; and the influence those organizations have with the Legislature — well, it becomes obvious why the Cuomo impeachment process has developed a perhaps-fatal case of the slows.
Given all that, the governor’s $138.7 million is just strawberry jam on the infrastructure cracker — but it’s still real money, and spending it stands to serve two critical gubernatorial purposes.
The pork-barreling is obvious. Discretionary cash for social programs passes through local not-for-profits with close ties to lawmakers, and nobody is about to miss out on that.
And the notion that spending can solve problems that are both behavioral in nature and abetted by permissive politicking lets politicians off the hook but does nothing about crime.
If gun violence really matters to the governor, if he truly is serious about the carnage on the streets of New York’s big cities, he’d be using his $138-point-7 million to hire more cops, not more social workers. Or he’d dedicate his slush fund to “persuading” the Legislature to repeal the criminal-justice “reforms” it imposed on the state two years ago to such sanguinary effect.
But none of that would help with his immediate problem, an impeachment probe by the Assembly and a harassment investigation by Attorney General Letitia James.
Those are the emergencies that matter most because what matters most to Andrew Cuomo is, and always will be, Andrew Cuomo.