Prosperity at last, or more empty economic promises?

They’re calling the latest attempt to jump-start economic development from the ground up the “new regionalism.” The Mid-Hudson region is one of 10 designated groupings around the state.

Official announcements were made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy last week. Among a group of fellow orators in New Paltz, Duffy was distinguished for his repeating the phrase “and in conclusion,” which clanged the ear.

The new regionalism sounds like a good idea, but will it amount to more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Or to put it another way, is economic development an oxymoron in New York State?

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Recall Senate candidate Hillary Clinton promising to create 200,000 upstate jobs during her 2000 campaign. New York has probably lost that many jobs in the last decade. Hillary has gone on to far bigger things.

Duffy’s press conference, hastily assembled, featured the same old suits — state senators Steve Saland, Bill Larkin and John Bonacic and assemblymen Kevin Cahill and Marc Molinaro of Tivoli. Blah-blah-blah and blah-blah. Local yokels included the usual suspects, none of whom have had notable success in promoting grass-roots economic development, except for restaurants, drug stores and gas-station makeovers.

All embraced the governor’s new strategy, though Cahill, typically, had reservations. Would Ulster be fairly represented in a region of more than a million people with the majority in Westchester County, he mused in a press release.

Did the presence of solar entrepreneur Vincent Cozzolino on the regional board, long on federal grantsmanship and short on job creation, assuage his concerns? I’d rather have seen County Executive Mike Hein. At least we’d get a few press releases.

How about the late (as in fired) Sandy Mathes, the man who built those booming industrial parks in Coxsackie before the Great Recession?

While Cuomo was understandably focused on fiscal issues his first few months in office, I expected something more original in an area that affects every area of state life. Under governors dating back to the mystical Mario, the once-proud Empire State has been, it seems to me, an economic basket case. The city, with its flood of hard-working immigrants, has more than held its own. Upstate is a wasteland of boarded-up buildings and aging for-sale signs. Drive west through Shandaken and into Delaware County. It gets worse toward the setting sun.

I don’t know whether anybody knows exactly how much the state spends on economic development, given how they cook the books in Albany. A billion dollars a year has been a working figure; maybe it’s more. Cuomo’s billion-dollar fund for innovative ideas, as yet undefined, adds spice to the mix but little substance.

It’s the mechanics that need fixing. Were we to get a billion dollars a year in well-paying jobs with benefits, the investment would be worth it. In my jaundiced view, the fact that we do not leads new leaders to draw circles on maps, schedule press conferences and call it regionalism. For too long, economic development has been a haven for political hacks from both sides. Scattered among fiercely competing bureaucracies, their primary concern about jobs has been Job One — their own.

What this Stygian stable needs is a ground-up shakeup. How do successful states and counties attract new development beyond the usual cash advances? Is New York over-regulated? Probably, but be careful. Deregulation set the hounds loose on Wall Street. Surely there are examples of success, even in depressed upstate. Witness Greene County, the quintessential backwater.

Cuomo’s future is tied to economic development. Obviously he’s an ambitious man. Should Cuomo’s gaze shift toward Washington, as his father’s once did, he has to understand that his road forward has to be paved with economic recovery, something wordsmiths might call “the new New York idea.”

Let’s have some new ideas.

 

Terry on task

If you ask county Legislator Terry Bernardo, Republican of Accord, she’d probably say she doesn’t get half the credit she deserves for all that she does. Well, Bernardo, seeking her second term in District 21 (Rochester-Wawarsing), hit the bull’s eye last week with a front-page feature in the Shawangunk Journal. And she deserved every word of it along with the flattering picture.

It seems that shortly after the Herb Poppel Bridge in Kerhonkson was — finally! — dedicated earlier this summer, local vandals took to their spray paint, a fresh, clean surface being the ultimate challenge to these miscreants. Bernardo was called to the scene. Unlike most other observers, she noted that the suspects had foolishly signed their initials to their work. Bernardo, a thoroughly modern type, posted her findings on Facebook and, sure enough, matches were found. Two teenagers are in the dock, soon to be featured in a town cleanup program.

Bernardo said county executive Hein called to congratulate her for her impressive detective work and subsequent publicity. He might have been a tad jealous, for truly it is said, nobody, with the possible exception of Maurice Hinchey, knows positive public relations like Mike Hein does.

On another Bernardo note, Terry’s husband Len, the Independence Party chairman, was positively furious over mayoral candidate Hayes Clement circulating “opportunity to ballot” nominating petitions against Shayne Gallo, Bernardo’s choice for mayor. Bernardo called Clement “sneaky” and “petulant.” My, my.

As a city resident, I find the meddling in mayoral politics by some guy from Accord offensive — less so if a city committee of Indies, which in this case does not exist, had made the call.

There are about 530 registered Independence Party members in Kingston, the vast majority of whom probably have no idea they’re members of a political party. Nonetheless, Clement and Gallo were able to secure about 80 signatures each on their petitions.

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As the party designee, Gallo has the benefit of being on the ballot. Clement’s supporters will have to write in his name, a very tall order. Advantage Gallo, but congrats to Clement for forcing his foe to work on something other than the all-important Democratic primary on Sept. 13. Clement, a first-term alderman, beat Gallo soundly for the Democratic nomination in June.

 

Another Parete success

And finally, that hotbed of political intrigue, the Rondout Valley, has seen the unexpected withdrawal of Democratic nominee Tony Russo from the race for county legislature in District 18 (Marbletown-Rochester). Russo’s retreat leaves the field clear for incumbent Democrat Rich Parete. Give Parete credit for rising to the challenge. When the Marbletown town committee chaired by Shannon Schreibman (wife of county chairman Julian) denied Parete the nomination, he circulated petitions for the Democratic and Republican nominations. Now he has both, plus that of the Independence Party. If I were a gambling man, I’d put a bob on that boy.

Bad blood between the Paretes and the Schreibmans goes back to when the Schreibmans dumped John Parete as county chairman a few years ago. Poppa John is a candidate for legislature in District 22 (Olive-Shandaken-Denning-Hardenburgh).