In the remake of President Ronald Reagan’s famous demand to Mikhail Gorbachev, read with the precision that only a trained actor could achieve, Andrew Cuomo began his administration as Governor of New York.
In his first act as governor, Andrew Cuomo Saturday symbolically moved toward his promise to open up government to the people.
Crews were busy at work removing concrete barriers erected in front of the state Capitol under then Gov. George Pataki following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
He was also preparing to open up the historic Hall of Governors that houses his suite of offices as well as portraits of past governors.
Dubbed “Fort Pataki,” the wing was sealed off from the public early in Pataki’s tenure.
This morning, the doors were open and the security desk moved to the side.
Like you, I’m a huge fan of symbolic gestures, particularly ones that bring the powerful closer to the rest of us. Of course, Governor George Pataki’s concern that he would be a target of terrorists, who would squander their efforts on bringing Albany to its knees, might be seen as a bit overwrought nearly a decade later.
The concrete barriers that protected him from the common folk have long since been paid for, and Cuomo, scion of Mario, a governor who knew how to keep the people happy at arm’s length with only a look, knows that some changes are needed. After all, the last anointed governor, Spitzer, didn’t do too well.
In all fairness, New York State thrived under Mario Cuomo, the personification of the old saw, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”
Our new Governor has a decade of legislation and policies borne of fear, the decade of “better safe than sorry” that excused overreaching across the criminal justice system. The concrete barriers and closed off corridors of power are very much symbols of what became of the State of New York.
The question now is whether this symbolic gesture reflects a change in how the Governor of the State of New York plans to do business, or is merely a gesture. As I did when Eliot Spitzer assumed office, I wish Andrew Cuomo both the luck and fortitude to bring the legal system of New York back to its historic position of leadership and courage, an example of how a government can function by protecting the civil rights and individual freedoms of its citizens.
Thank you, Andrew Cuomo, for tearing down that wall. But it’s only the first step. I hope you inherited the strength of your father, even though Chris got the good looks.
If you need any help, let me know.