There’s a great saying, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” New York’s governor, Andy Cuomo, is the walking, talking political version of this, gushing progressive when it suits him while putting his veto pen to use to kill any law that might actually accomplish his professed goals. It’s not that he doesn’t love the ideas, but he can’t tolerate them in practice.
Like what? Well, he vetoed statewide funding for indigent defense. This has been a battle raging for more than a decade, to normalize funding across the state, to create a statewide office to oversee the function to assure quality and competence, and finally, finally, the Legislature passed a law. And Cuomo vetoed it. His spokesman explained:
“Unfortunately, an agreement was unable to be reached and the Legislature was committed to a flawed bill that placed an $800 million burden on taxpayers — $600 million of which was unnecessary — with no way to pay for it and no plan to make one.”
Money. As if affording indigent defendants their constitutional right to counsel shouldn’t cost anything. But his statement is a carefully crafted lie, as it’s now paid by counties, and would be shifted to the state. But even worse, as lawprof John Pfaff has been saying all along,
NYS has a $140 BILLION budget. That $600M that has
@NYGovCuomo so concerned is 0.4%.
So even if it was remotely accurate that this would cost the state $600 million (and it’s not), the adequate funding of indigent defense would reflect 0.4% of the state budget. But Mr. Progressive, the guy who mandated affirmative consent for college sex because he’s got two daughters, decided to blow off the bipartisan bill and screw the indigent. He’s that kind of progressive.
But as long as he had his veto pen out, it would be a waste not to make good use of it, and indigent defense wasn’t the only good cause to be slaughtered. For years, the Lege has sought to undo the late ’50s hysteria over criminal knives that has been so flagrantly and deliberately abused by police as to arrest tens, maybe hundreds, of thousand of law-abiding working people. They finally did it, and Cuomo undid it.
Last week New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill aimed at stopping trumped-up arrests of innocent people for possessing tools that police arbitrarily identify as prohibited “gravity knives.” Cuomo acknowledges in his veto message that the current application of the state’s ban on gravity knives, which criminalizes possession of openly sold and commonly used tools, “is absurd and must be addressed.”
He said the right words, as he killed the law that would fix the problem. Why?
But he argues that the revised definition in S.B. 6483A (a.k.a. A.B. 9042A) is ambiguous and would impose too heavy a burden on cops and prosecutors. Cuomo’s position is reasonable only if you think ordinary New Yorkers should bear the burden of demonstrating the legality of knives they bought at Home Depot to cut drywall, carpeting, or linoleum.
To appreciate the inanity of the law, one has to realize what cops do to create the appearance of a violation under the old definition. They would happen upon a folding knife, whether an ordinary pocket knife or a tool-knife of the sort regularly used in construction, and keep flicking it, flicking it, flicking it, until they got some movement toward opening, at which point they would make the collar for a “gravity knife.”
Or, they would just lie about it and leave it to the poor schmuck they arrested to prove it wasn’t a gravity knife after he spent a night in lock-up, made a few court appearances and finally got a prosecutor to take a look at the knife. Worse still, maybe not until trial. Except most of these guys took a hit at arraignment by plea or ACD to get out of the system. Numbers made. Cop is a hero. The system worked.
Except these weren’t criminals. There was no crime. And thousands of hard-working New Yorkers were saddled with criminal records, all because of a law that was born of hysteria in the first place and, more than 60 years later, was still on the books because the dysfunctional Legislature couldn’t be bothered to fix it.
Except they finally did. They finally changed a law that even Andy calls “absurd.” Finally. And Cuomo vetoed it. Not because the law didn’t desperately need to be changed, but because the ruination of thousands of lives wasn’t worth the burden the change would place on cops, those guys who get paid to do their chosen job, to do the undoable: think.
Cuomo, whose veto was welcomed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, worries that Savino’s revised definition “would potentially legalize all folding knives.” It is hard to see how, since a classic gravity knife does not have a bias toward closure that needs to be overcome by “exertion,” and neither does a spring-loaded switchblade. Cuomo also complains that Savino’s bill “would place the burden upon law enforcement to determine the design attributes of each given knife.”
That’s right, New York City’s most progressive mayor ever is on board with sad tears for the heavy burden this would place on cops to not arrest law-abiding people. Too much to demand of police, that they stop arresting the innocent.
But wait! Andy’s heart is still bleeding. Isn’t there anything progressive he actually does? Well, there’s his commutation of the 75-year sentence for former radical, Judith Clark, for the 1981 Brink’s robbery.
“When you meet her you get a sense of her soul,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Her honesty makes her almost transparent as a personality. She takes full responsibility. There are no excuses. There are no justifications.”
Cuomo touched her soul. How…emotional. Especially for a governor who has chosen to ignore his commutation power so as not to piss off police unions, very helpful come election time.
Her only hope of getting out during her lifetime was a grant of clemency from the governor, a power Mr. Cuomo had almost never exercised in nearly six years in office.
Maybe he was too busy vetoing reform laws. But this time was different. He commuted her sentence to 35 years, but that doesn’t mean she gets out, only that she’s now eligible for parole.
Mr. Cuomo said he was not worried about paying a political price for commuting Ms. Clark’s sentence. “I’ve gotten to a point where if I can sleep at night, I’m happy,” he said. “I can sleep at night with this. I believe showing mercy and justice and compassion and forgiveness is the right signal. You can’t make ‘them’ happy. You live your life by ‘them’ and you’re lost.”
After all, the coastal progressives are so much more enlightened than the deplorable Americans over whom they fly. They say so all the time, even if they struggle with being any different in action. It’s not that they don’t love progressive rhetoric, but they hate actual reform that might protect due process, the poor, the innocent, or make the cops sad.
Update: I wondered whether my headline for this post was a bit too harsh. Apparently, I’m not even in the ballpark when it comes to writing mean things about Andy Cuomo.
That’s Jezebel. I can’t even.