Two things can be true at the same time, despite how contradictory they may appear from the outset.
Example: 1) Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has been exceptionally lucrative for Oswego County with a long record of funding and supporting big, transformative projects here.
2) It is clear, from Tuesday’s report delivered by Attorney General Letitia James, that his time as governor must now end.
James’ press conference announcing the findings of her office’s investigation was a stunning moment in New York politics. The 168-page document released publicly, as well as James’ Tuesday comments, accused the governor and his staff of blatantly abusing their authority and Cuomo himself specifically of victimizing no fewer than seven named women.
James and attorneys Anne Clark and Joon Kim spoke for roughly 45 minutes but for those watching, it felt much, much longer. Kim detailed how among the more than 200 interviews conducted for the investigation, women’s stories poured out with varying names and locations but Cuomo’s pattern of behavior remained the same: isolate young women and aggressively hit on them sometimes accompanied by groping and/or kissing. If they refused or spoke up, the weight of the executive chamber would allegedly move forcefully to shut them up.
The stark accusations contained the account of a member of the governor’s protective detail, a New York State Police trooper, who said she was kissed, asked for help in finding a girlfriend and questioned why she didn’t wear a dress to work instead of her service-issued uniform.
The Legislature has indicated its willingness to impeach and remove the governor if he refuses to resign. We support that. Judging by Cuomo’s response to James’ allegations, he appears to be willing to try to weather the storm. We don’t support that.
“I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said in a pre-recorded video. “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am and that’s not who I have ever been.
“Today we are living in a superheated, if not toxic political environment — that shouldn’t be lost on anyone,” he continued. “Politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this situation. One would be naive to think otherwise, and New Yorkers are not naive.”
It should be noted that Cuomo supported James in a crowded 2018 primary — politics and bias don’t usually cut against your allies. It also strains fundamental credulity to believe the seven women named in James’ report — and an essentially unknowable amount of unnamed women — are conspiring to allege the governor treated them all in the same repugnant manner.
Having addressed point #2 above, let’s circle back to #1.
On May 17, 2016, former Pall-Times ace reporter Ben Kail (now reporting on national politics in Massachusetts) wrote the city was “moving forward with a $10 million downtown competition.” In the five years since Oswego was awarded those funds through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), nearly 200 articles regarding the DRI have appeared in this publication.
One month after the DRI award, Cuomo stood in Scriba and announced a deal that would allow Exelon Generation to purchase and keep in operation the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant. Through a creative system of tax credits for zero-carbon electricity generation, Cuomo’s administration was part of the answer to the call of “Save Fitz.” Remember that?
Five years after the DRI commenced, Oswego’s downtown has indeed been revitalized thanks to local developers taking calculated risks buoyed by state money. Cuomo’s REDI effort to “build back better” after devastating Lake Ontario flooding has poured millions into Oswego Harbor and the county shoreline — all the way up to dredging off Sandy Creek.
The administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo has had undeniably positive, visible impacts on Oswego but to celebrate those benefits while ignoring his administration’s similarly undeniable malice and his own personal transgressions would indeed be naïve and as the governor said, naïve we New Yorkers are not.
Getting a good thing in return for accepting a bad thing isn’t consent — it’s coercion.
We urge the governor to resign, and for Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul to assume the office as soon as possible so New York and Oswego County can move forward with a trustworthy executive.
Seth Wallace is the managing editor of The Palladium-Times. He lives with his son in the city of Oswego.