It Is About You (Most of the Time)
Cuomo came to town on Monday, surrounded himself with Albany’s
old political guard, and stoked the ego of Albany Mayor Jerry
Jennings. “Jerry talks about, ‘I’m tired of people degrading
Albany,’” Cuomo said, pointing to Jennings. “You see all of
these ads that are on TV now all about ‘Albany,’ meaning the
state government in Albany. They’ve been saying it so often
that they now use the short form: ‘Albany must change,’ ‘Change
Albany.’ It bothers Jerry, as the mayor of Albany—’cause you
know Jerry takes everything personally. He thinks this is
all about him! I keep saying, ‘Sometimes it’s not about you,
Jerry. It’s about the state government.’”
But I am here to tell you, Jerry: It is about you. Sure, when
people talk about “Albany dysfunction,” they are talking about
state government, but if they knew how you’ve ruled Albany
for the past 16 years, they would have the sense to know that
you represent the old politics that choke progress and drown
new ideas and ambitious young politicians in a bathtub like
an unwanted litter of puppies.
The old guard won. On Tuesday night, local legislators “slept
through their races,” one highly placed political insider
told me at the Democrats’ rally at the Polish Americans Citizens
Club. A few patronage jobs go a long way, and so does having
the same name on the ballot year after year. It gets the same
people elected over and over. Even if they don’t have new
ideas. Even though it stops new, progressive leaders from
ever getting a chance to test themselves. Even when it is
driving people out of our city.
Sorry, Jerry, but I am here to tell you that it is about you.
Take it personally.
The people in Buffalo, Long Island and Manhattan may not know
how your legendary grip on the city has led to scandal after
scandal, the dissolution of community policing and nearly
a thousand abandoned buildings—all while your associates fatten
their wallets—but Albany residents do. They know how Albany
is suffering from a drought of young new leadership.
Yes, the state government is a dysfunctional, corrupt embarrassment—but
guess what? The city of Albany is not doing much better. On
Tuesday night after Cuomo had declared victory, I asked whether
you planned to take a position with the Cuomo administration.
“Not right now. I have a three-year contract with the people
of this city. I don’t take orders from anyone at my age, kid,”
you replied, before punching me in the arm. It’s funny, because
I clearly remember you promising not to run again during the
2005 mayoral race. Should we believe you now when you say
that you will stay with the city during a time when the budget
is finally collapsing under years of mismanagement? The rumor
mill is churning overtime that you won’t be serving out the
remainder of your term. Why do you think that is? Do you think
Albany is hungry for new leadership?
Do I have much faith that good new leaders will replace you?
Honestly, I don’t.
Because your tenure in Albany has quashed the development
of young new leaders. The people with ideas leave Albany.
The people ready to get in line behind you and stay quiet,
I learned a lot about just how dysfunctional Albany is on
Tuesday night. I was telling some Metroland freelancers
how sad I was that you wouldn’t let me take your picture while
you playfully pretended ti sport a Paladino button earlier
in the evening, when Democratic County Chair Dan McCoy sicked
Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo on one of our female
freelancers. I say “sicked” because Mr. Scavo is a notorious
“ladies man.” In other words, he can’t keep his hands to himself
or refrain from making unwanted advances. He has made them
to a number of female Metroland employees, as we have
documented in the past. But tonight was particularly special,
in that it was utterly loathsome.
I had just finished sarcastically complaining that Albany
politicians “don’t like me” when Scavo walked up and told
me he respects me because: “You’re a pit bull, man.” He talked
about how Metroland has “slandered” him in the past
and then he proceeded to degrade our freelancer. Scavo ran
his hands through her hair, caressed her face with both sides
of his hands and ran his hands up and down her arms. He ignored
her requests to stop, and proceeded to talk about how there
was a plan to “legalize prostitution” in the works in the
Albany County Legislature. “Touch my bicep. I want you to
know I am a real man,” he said. She declined.
The event was witnessed by a Metroland intern and our
female freelancer’s boyfriend, who was rightfully quite angry.
But this is Albany. Former Common Council President Shawn
Morris vehemently warned of Scavo’s erratic behavior—after
he asked her 17-year-old daughter on a date—and Morris was
chided for speaking up by the police union that backed Scavo.
I can’t blame everything on you, Jerry—Scavo is a separate
mess—but you have conditioned Albany voters to expect very
little from their representatives. A smile, a tan, a handshake
will do it. Results? Well we can’t expect those in a short
amount of time. It took our dear mayor 16 years to leave us
with the budget mess we are in. Great works take great investment.
It is time for Albany incumbents to start working with the
younger generation—stop fearing that they will usurp you—and
realize that it is an inevitability. Like the Joker said—“Think
about the future!”
I’d like to say that, in Albany, we are lucky if the people
we elect are actually breathing. But that isn’t actually appropriate.
The truth is, in Albany we would be lucky if our politicians
took the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” But after
Tuesday night, I think I’m setting my hopes just a little