The past week provided several examples of Andrew Cuomo’s ready-fire-aim approach to governing, an odd yet persistent character trait in someone whose goal is to one day occupy the White House.
Even Donald Trump’s admirers do not spend much time praising his managerial expertise. He promised disruption and he delivers, often by the hour. So you would think that Cuomo would be the anti-Trump not only in terms of philosophy and policy but precision as well. And with a non-politician, the actor Cynthia Nixon, challenging him, you might think he would pay some attention to details to show that he does know how to do the job.
Consider three unrelated and self-inflicted problems that surfaced in one week, connected only by their direct ties to the governor.
For no imaginable reason, the governor continues to defend those roadside signs reminding motorists that New York has scenery and restaurants. They cost millions to create and install at a time when repairs and improvements are underfunded. They violate federal highway standards, bringing a risk of both fines and a loss of even more millions in aid. And they provide little more than a link to a website, an actual hazard at a time when distracted driving is an increasing cause of accidents, injuries and deaths. Yet the governor loves those signs.
The second debacle is also road-related, the expensive mess that New York has created out of what sounded like a great idea, cashless tolling.
The concept is simple. If you have E-ZPass you are charged just as you were when you went through those automatic toll gates. But you don’t have to stop or even slow down and neither do those without E-ZPass or one of those similar devices from other states.
Cameras are supposed to record the license plate and then send a bill to the address associated with it. The trouble is, far too many of the pictures are blurry or otherwise useless. And drivers have complained that when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority finally gets around to sending an initial bill, it might already contain penalties and interest.
Third is one he really should want to get right, the Excelsior scholarship program providing free tuition for thousands of students at state colleges who meet the requirements.
What are those requirements, a student or parent might ask. They will find themselves in interesting company as they await an answer. As a representative for the SUNY Financial Aid Professionals organization, the people you might normally go to for answers, put it just last week, “As we are well into the year two of the program, we ask that you understand that we are essentially in our 64 campuses establishing and running 64 different versions of this program.”
So at the same time that the governor is running ads featuring testimonials from grateful Excelsior scholarship recipients, all giving Cuomo the credit for their college education, nobody can say for sure how to apply and how to quality.
It’s almost as if the governor has become infected with incurable shiny-object syndrome, the one that distracts the easily distracted.