Posts Tagged ‘New York’

A Kennedy in Name Only

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

    Once upon a time, in an America in which politicians discussed, debated, argued and compromised in order to pass laws for the betterment of the nation, a man named Robert F. Kennedy ran for president.

       He had previously served as attorney general of the country and was a key adviser to the president, who happened to be his brother, John F. Kennedy.

       President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and his brother, commonly called Bobby, eventually moved from Massachusetts (where his younger brother, Ted, would serve as senator for 47 years) to New York, where he was elected senator. Bobby served New York from 1965 to 1968, when he, too, ran for president.

       Life being sometimes cruelly unpredictable, Bobby Kennedy was also assassinated, being shot to death in a hotel kitchen while campaigning in California in 1968.

       Today, in an America in which one of the two major political parties has abandoned negotiation for fear, threats, lies and violence, Kennedy’s son, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., trading on the family name and legacy, is running for president. 

     Not as a Democrat, like his father and uncles, but as an independent candidate. Unfortunately, this apple has fallen far from the family tree. So far, in fact, that every member of his family has endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president and encouraged Americans not to vote for RFK Jr. 

      When I decided to write about Kennedy’s third-party candidacy, it was mostly because I was angry that he would likely take votes away from Biden, since many Americans, while pridefully long on opinions, are woefully short on actual information. I thought, they’ll see the Kennedy name, think progressive Democrat, and figure, what the heck, he’s a lot younger than Joe.

      Yeah, but he’s more like Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which has abandoned all traditional American political principles. A lot more like Trump, in fact.

     Kennedy is a conspiracy theorist. An anti-vaccine activist. He says he’ll put the country on Blockchain currency if elected president. He threw the environmental group largely responsible for reclaiming the Hudson River, not far from me, into turmoil when he decided he wanted to take it over.

   And he’s definitely anti-Democrat. In fact, Kennedy’s New York campaign manager specifically said Junior was running as an independent, knowing full well he has no chance of winning, in order to take votes away from Biden.

    But guess what? Life being, as I said, unpredictable, those annoying polls, which keep popping up with dubious information, have apparently started showing Kennedy taking more votes away from Trump than from Biden.

     Maybe it’s the same theory: What the heck, he’s just as nutty and he’s a lot younger than Trump.

     For what it’s worth, Trump never got more votes than his opponent and he truly cannot afford to lose votes to a third-party candidate. Much more so than Biden, So Republicans are worried about Bobby Junior, too.

      I don’t know and I really don’t think the pollsters know. I do know that no third-party candidate is going to get elected president and that Americans who are familiar with history and cherish democracy have a duty to educate others who are familiar only with the name, Robert F. Kennedy. Names can be deceiving.

      I saw and heard Bobby Kennedy campaign for the presidency in person. This is not that Bobby Kennedy.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

     

 

        

If the (Granderson) shirt fits, wear it

Friday, November 17th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The Granderson shirt.

The Granderson shirt.

    I wore the Granderson shirt the other day. For the second time. The first time I wore it was more than six years ago. Donald Trump had just moved into the White House, I was recovering from a serious automobile accident and they hadn’t started playing baseball for real yet. Yeah, fun times.

     Still, the good news was that I had lost a significant amount of weight thanks to a more healthful diet and a bit of exercise, gotten into better shape and, noticing the Granderson shirt at the bottom of the shirt drawer, I decided to try it on. Again.

     I say again because the shirt had been given to me a few years earlier as a gift for either my birthday or Christmas by my son, Zack. He had inherited my rooting interest in the New York Yankees and at one time my favorite player on the team was Curtis Granderson. So Zack gave me the Granderson shirt, which was very thoughtful and appropriate. But it didn’t fit because I was inappropriately overweight.

     But, voilà, at this somewhat depressing time six years ago, I decided to try the shirt on again and it fit. Sort of. Let’s say I could wear it without being embarrassed. It also provided me an opportunity to write a little about sports, something an old sports editor can’t resist. And, as I’ve shared before, I often look to sports to start the day with some good news.

It fits.

It fits.

      Well, the really good news is that when I found the Granderson shirt still at the bottom of the shirt drawer the other day and put it on, it fit perfectly. Clean living had finally paid off.

    So this old Yankee fan wore the Granderson shirt. The Yankee one, number 14. I specify Yankee because, as New York sports fans know, Granderson also played for the Mets. And, to get to the actual news in all this, the former outfielder for both New York teams was recently inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, which I didn’t even know existed.

    I came upon this bit of information, not surprisingly, via Facebook. A meme posting from the organization informed me that Granderson and Darryl Strawberry, who also played for both the Yankees and Mets, were among 16 recent inductees into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame.

     At a time when Trump still dominates headlines and TV airtime because of the 91 felony indictments among other things, I thought it was nice synchronicity for sports  to show up again to remind us of something positive.

       The New York State Baseball Hall of Fame has been in existence since 2011, but opened its new museum just this past July, in Gloversville, which is a 45-minute drive from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, thereby putting upstate New York on the map for traveling baseball fans.

       Granderson and Strawberry, two hard-hitting outfielders, all-stars and fan favorites were naturals for induction to this New York-focused hall. As a major leaguer, Granderson was respected, not only for his baseball talent, but for his contributions to the community at large. He was an intelligent and articulate spokesperson for the sport and for sportsmanship in general and worked with inner-city kids. He was also a streaky home run hitter and could strike out a lot. He’d fit right in today if he were playing.

    Strawberry was also a power hitter, known for booming home runs, but his most powerful story today is of his recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse, a story he freely shares with those who need to hear a message of hope. He and his wife have set up a foundation which helps pay for treatment for addicts.

      So these two recently joined the ranks of other New Yorkers or those with strong New York connections who have contributed over the years to the sport of baseball — professionals and amateurs, players and coaches, executives and writers and announcers as well as the 22 New York-born major leaguers who are also enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame just down the road.

      A quick check of other inductees into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame produces the name of Joe Nathan (induction class of 2018), who was a standout pitcher for the Minnesota Twins and Pine Bush High School, where my son, Zack, and his brother, Max, both graduated.

        Synchronicity. Nice to have another shirt to wear. Thanks again, Zack.

rjgaydos@gmail.com


       

So, How was Your Sports Weekend?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Aaron Rodgers’ Jets season, and maybe his career, end after four snaps in the Meadowlands.

Aaron Rodgers’ Jets season, and maybe his career, end after four snaps in the Meadowlands.

   “What fools we sports fans be.”*

    Sports (is/are) often looked upon as a microcosm of life, offering highs, lows, stirring victories, deflating defeats, rewards, failures, memories and might-have-beens, despair and, seemingly always, hope and, as a town that prides itself on providing something for everyone, New York delivered in spades for sports fans on all of that in the past few days with the (1.) incredible situation in which New York Jets fans, whose team won its opening game on a 65-yard punt return TD in overtime, possibly feel worse than New York Giants fans, whose team (2.) was embarrassed on the same field the day before, losing to the hated Dallas Cowboys, 40-0, because (3.) the Jets lost their new future Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, after just four snaps when he went down with a torn left Achilles tendon (the Greeks knew drama, too), and is out for the season and, at 38, maybe for good, meaning all that money and preseason time spent training the team to play the way Rodgers plays may have been wasted, or (4.) maybe not, since the Jets former starting quarterback, Zach Wilson took over and played well enough to win and the defense stymied the vaunted but sloppy Buffalo Bills offense, all of which took the spotlight off (5.) 19-year-old local girl Coco Gauff winning the U.S. Open tennis championship at Forest Hills, joining Serena Williams and Tracy Austin as the only American teenagers to win the tournament, a feat she (6.) immediately gave thanks for by dropping to her knees in prayer, which apparently confused some people, but not as much as the news that (7.) the New York Yankees’ potential new centerfielder (and former Hudson Valley Renegade), rookie Jasson (The Martian) Dominguez, a 20-year-old sensation who has been hitting home runs with astonishing regularity since joining the team a short while ago, has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that will (8.) require surgery, ending his 2023 season and likely costing him the first half of 2024, this being (9.) only the latest in a season of mysterious injuries to key Yankees players, (10.) raising questions (at least here) about the capabilities of the team’s training regimen, something that was never in doubt concerning (11.) Deion Sanders, a former Yankees top draft pick, who played 14 years in the NFL and nine years in Major League Baseball, including a day in which he played an NFL game in between two baseball playoff games, who earned the nickname Neon Deion for his flashiness and thus had lots of doubters when he said he would (12.) take over and coach the unheralded University of Colorado football team into a winner, then proceeded to (13.) lead them to stunning wins over TCU and Nebraska in the first two weeks of the season (14.) with his son, Shadeur, starring at quarterback (talk about good genes) and stirring thoughts about winning combinations and fond memories of former champions, such as (15.) the cast assembled in the Bronx for Old Timers Day, which featured the “Core Four” of the Yankees’ 1998 World Series champions: Andy Pettite, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek ! Jeter, incredibly now an oldtimer, who got his 3,000th hit on a long ago Old Timers Day, back in the town that on this weekend truly had something to offer every sports fan.

     “All the world’s a stage,  And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances …”**

(PS: The Mets were out of town and lost a game, but hired a new head of baseball operations.)

(PPS: Just to top it all off, the day after Old Timers Day, the Yankees were held hitless by the Milwaukee Brewers for 11 innings, got a game-tying two-run home run by Giancarlo Stanton in the 12th and a walkoff double by Kyle Higashioka to win in the 13th. But hardly anybody noticed.)

*Slightly edited Shakespeare.

**Real Shakespeare.

The Story Behind the Name on the Sign

Thursday, April 27th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

  F92A48D4-B103-40C3-8E90-BA51D94911CC With the virtual disappearance of local newspapers, the crisis-of-the-moment atmosphere of news on television, heightened in recent years by social media, it’s easy for local happenings of note to sometimes slip by, umm, unnoticed. No cameras, no crowds, no name-calling, nothing going on here, folks. Just keep driving.

     Well, the other day as we drove a familiar route on Route 17 in slightly upstate New York, passing from Sullivan County into Orange County, I noticed an unfamiliar sight — a sign reading “Welcome to The Maurice D. Hinchey Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.”

     Where did that come from? I wondered. What does it mean?

   08503BD6-0B61-4098-951C-40978753D117Some research revealed that the entire Hudson River Valley, including counties bordering on both sides of the river, was designated by Congress in 1996 as the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area “to interpret, preserve and celebrate the nationally-significant cultural and natural resources of the Hudson River Valley.”

    I assume I heard about it at the time and forgot. Considering  the river’s role in so much of this nation’s history, from the Dutch settlers to the Revolutionary War, to the Hudson River School of Painters and the wealthy industrialists living in the valley, that designation makes a lot of sense. So, good for Congress.

     The area was officially renamed in honor of Maurice D. Hinchey in 2019. Considering that Hinchey probably did more than anyone else to save and preserve the river, that makes even more sense. Even better for the politicians.

     But what took them so long? And does just putting up a sign along the highway do Hinchey justice? I don’t think so. People, especially those new to the area and those just passing through, ought to know something about the name on the sign.

    So … Maurice Hinchey built a reputation in his 17 years in the State Legislature as the premier champion and defender of the environment in New York state. As longtime chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, he cracked down on polluters, investigated organized crime control of waste hauling, made Love Canal and toxic waste a national issue and, perhaps most importantly, raised an awareness of the importance of protecting our natural resources as a key to economic growth.

     Cleaning and preserving the Hudson River was one of his major priorities and no one worked more diligently at that.

     In addition to his 17 years in the state legislature, Hinchey served 20 years in Congress, representing an area that stretched from his home county of Ulster to the Finger Lakes region. He was a vocal opponent of fracking and consistently fought to bring resources to the Hudson Valley region that would improve the environment and boost the economy at the same time.

     A frequent visitor at the offices of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, he spoke quietly and knowingly and dressed sharply. In sum, he was an impeccable champion for the region.

     Hinchey died in 2017, in his hometown of Saugerties, in the Hudson Valley. He was 79. Having survived cancer, he succumbed to frontotemporal degeneration, a rare terminal neurological disorder, according to his family. I was saddened when I heard the news, but his legacy as the champion of the Hudson River Valley had already been assured many years earlier.

     In fact, that legacy may be growing. Hinchey’s daughter, Michelle, a Democrat like her father, was elected to the State Senate in 2020, representing much of the same area that her father did. Among other things, she has been focusing on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. She appears to be well aware of why her father’s name is on that new sign on Route 17.

    Hopefully, now you are, too.

                                  *** 

     From the National Park, Service website: The Hudson River Valley NHA is managed by the Hudson River Valley Greenway, a New York State sponsored program created to facilitate the development of a regional strategy for preserving scenic, natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources while encouraging compatible economic development and maintaining the tradition of home rule for land use decision-making.

The sites: https://www.hudsonrivervalley.com/sites

Bob Gaydos was editorial page editor of the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, NY, for 23 years.

rjgaydos@gmail.com



Save democracy, vote Democratic

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

   62395128-094D-465D-A455-BC0B61B1AABD  I voted early. Easy. No lines at the Government Center in Monticello at 2:30 on Tuesday a week before Election Day. Helpful, pleasant volunteers. I voted for every Democrat across Row A. Also easy. There was really no other choice.

    The hamlet where I live is tucked in to the southeastern tip of Sullivan County in upstate New York, about an hour’s drive to New York City. It’s between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. Pretty country. A lot of it is Republican country, but not as much as it used to be. Our area’s congressman and state legislators are all Democrats. A recent development.

       When I say there was no other choice on the ballot aside from Democrats, I don’t mean there were no Republicans running for federal, local or state offices. I mean, in my opinion, no Republican candidate for office even deserved consideration for my vote if he or she had failed to publicly voice any kind of criticism of the Trump disaster despite having six years and countless opportunities to do so. Two impeachments. The election conspiracy/lie. Thousands of other lies. The January 6 Insurrection incitement. Classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Threats of violence. And, of course, total incompetence. Nothing.

       Republican silence on Trump goes well beyond party loyalty to the realm of blind allegiance to their leader and/or sheer cowardice, neither of which I want in an elected official at any level. As far as I can tell, it is a pandemic of its own within the Republican Party in every state at every level. Silence, obedience … or unhinged vocal support.

          I cannot think of one local Republican official in the three-county area (Orange, Sullivan, Ulster) which I call home who has publicly said a negative word about Trump. Not one. Six years. To do so, many apparently fear, would cost them votes and maybe end their political careers. The thought that it might gain them respect and new votes apparently hasn’t occurred to them.

         Of course, there are those Republicans who support Trump vocally, if not vigorously, yet deny that this defines them as racist, bigoted, fascistic, phony, cruel, anti-science, anti-free press, ignorant of the law, misogynistic, double-dealing, anti-education, anti-veteran, hypocritical, self-absorbed, lazy liars. There’s more, but you know it all. If the Republican Party, individually and as a whole, supports Trump, it is Trump. The whole ugly package.

  Full disclosure: Most of what you’ve read so far is repeated from a column I wrote two years ago, prior to the presidential election.  Fortunately, Democrats prevailed. Yet, today, many of the leading voices in the Republican Party still parrot Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him. Indeed, Republican candidates for all sorts of state and local offices also repeat the lie. For many it’s their only campaign issue. Truthfully, the only issue Republicans seem to have is to gain power and maintain it in any way possible, legal or otherwise. Violence is apparently not ruled out.

     That’s a pretty harsh statement, but I repeat, I see no evidence that it is offbase. The only Republicans who have criticized Trump have been ostracized from the party. The silent ones are complicit in what I believe is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.

    I am 81 years old and after more than a quarter century of writing editorials for daily newspapers I never imagined I would write these words. But then I never imagined one of the two major political parties would abdicate all responsibility to govern in favor of creating an authoritarian system of government designed primarily to protect conservative white Christians. 

      This column is directed primarily at those who say their vote doesn’t matter. Or that both parties are the same. Wrong. Every vote for every office matters this year. Joe Biden’s two years as president with a Democratic Congress produced meaningful legislation for all Americans. If Republicans control Congress, there will be two years of stalemate and phony hearings, but no meaningful legislation. If they control state governments, no Democratic victory will be accepted. Constant turmoil.

     Vote like democracy depends on it, America,  because it does. And vote for every Democrat on the ballot. Please.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

On Making History, the Painful Way

Monday, May 9th, 2022

The world in 500 words or less …

By Bob Gaydos     

Ex-NYPD Cop Thomas Webster Guilty in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

Thomas Webster at the Capitol.

   History came to my area of slightly upstate New York twice in one week recently, but not in a celebratory way. The history was announced in newspaper headlines. Both involved “firsts.”  Some might have regarded these historic moments as simply the result of unfortunate circumstances, but they made me think of the choices we make.

        The headlines linked two of the biggest stories in the world — the Jan. 6 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the war in Ukraine — with two men with ties to Orange County, N.Y. 

  •  The Insurrection: Thomas Webster, 54, a retired New York City police officer, was the first person arrested in connection with the riot to defend himself at trial by claiming Capitol police officers had used excessive force against the violent mob seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and maybe hang Mike Pence. Interesting defense choice right there.  After viewing videos of Webster profanely berating the officer, beating him with a metal flag pole, tackling him and grabbing the officer’s gas mask, the jury took only two hours to find the former Marine guilty of assault and other charges. Married and with a family, Webster started a landscaping business in Orange County after serving 20 years as a New York City cop. He said he chose to go to Washington, D.C., alone and carrying that flag pole, on that fateful day to hear Donald Trump speak about how the election had been stolen. Webster said he became agitated as the pro-Trump crowd approached the Capitol. Once there, he joined the melee and, like many others, was photographed doing so. Now, the man who once served on the protective detail of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, faces a possible 20 years in prison. 
  • Ukraine: Willy J. Cancel, a native of Orange County, graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, Walden volunteer firefighter, was reportedly the first American to die in combat against Russian forces in Ukraine. A former Marine who, reports said, had not received an honorable discharge and had never been deployed, Cancel was a corrections officer in Tennessee. But his family said he was also employed by a military contracting company. Soldier-for-hire might be considered an unusual second-job choice for a 22-year-old man with a wife and seven-month-old child. That company sent him to Ukraine, where he died. Cancel was praised back home for his service and bravery. A Go Fund Me site has been created on Facebook for his widow and infant child.

     I don’t know anything else about either of these men and am in no position to understand, much less judge, the choices they made. Their stories just reminded me that, what may seem to some like reasonable, even honorable, choices can have unintended, dire consequences. Even historic ones.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Who in the World is Kathy Hochul?

Friday, August 27th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Kathy Hochul is sworn as New York’s 57th governor.

Kathy Hochul is sworn as New York’s 57th governor.

      Move over FDR and Teddy R. Step aside, Mr. Harriman, Mr. Rockefeller. Make way for history, John Jay, Martin Van Buren and Grover Cleveland. In fact, Al Smith, Ham Fish, George Pataki et al, how about a round of applause? This week, August 24 to be precise, New York State got its first woman governor.

      It only took 231 years. Thirty states managed to accomplish this feat before New York. The new governor of New York is Kathy Hochul. Until recently, most New Yorkers had never heard of her. That’s true of most lieutenant governors, but most lieutenant governors don’t get to become governor when the actual governor resigns. That’s how Hochul got the job. No matter. Her moment in history deserves more recognition than it has received. 

        Let’s start with the irony of the situation. Andrew Cuomo, whom Hochul replaced as governor, chose her as his running mate in 2014 because she was from upstate and because he thought a woman on the ticket would bring him more votes. He used her for political reasons. Cuomo was forced to resign, of course, because nearly a dozen women accused him of using them to address his sexual needs. He denied the charges, but bowed to overwhelming pressure from fellow Democrats to resign.

           Perhaps the most damaging response to the allegations came from the state attorney general, Letitia James, whose investigation produced a report that described a “hostile work environment” created by Cuomo’s actions. James, also a Democrat, through her involvement in investigating Donald Trump’s taxes, has become one of the best-known, politically influential women in a state that for a long time did not encourage such ambition.

         In fact, the state did not have a female senator until 2002, when Hillary Clinton, a transplant from Washington,  D.C,, won election. She was succeeded by Kirsten Gillebrand when Barack Obama tapped Clinton to be his Secretary of State. Gillebrand is still in the Senate, but is not necessarily influential in New York politics. Nor has any of the several congresswomen elected over the years from the New York metropolitan area been especially influential in state politics.

          State government has been a boys club for a long time in New York. Hochul says she’s ready to integrate that club by running for election, and winning, on her own next year. She will undoubtedly face a tough primary challenge, but first she has the challenge of the ongoing Covid pandemic to deal with as well as that lingering hostile environment around the governor’s office. Can she do it? She said she intends to do both in her swearing-in remarks.

        How well she handles those challenges may hold the answer to another question: Can a one-term congresswoman and former county clerk, who spent most of her time in Albany as a goodwill ambassador to the state’s 62 counties, convince New Yorkers that she can run their government?

          By the way, Hochul is not the only New York lieutenant governor to make history in stepping up to the governorship. Basil Paterson became the first African-American To be governor of New York and first legally blind person to be governor of any state. He succeeded Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after news reports said that he had patronized a prostitution ring run by an escort service in Washington, D.C. The FBI had a tap on the premises. 

        Paterson did not seek election to the governorship in 2011, giving way to Andrew Cuomo. (It really is all connected.) But Paterson did appoint Gillibrand to Clinton’s vacant Senate seat. He also became the focus of a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live. 

       Back to Hochul. Hillary Clinton still lives in New York and if there’s anything she loves to do, it’s breaking up good old boys clubs. Stay tuned.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com

       

 

          

           

 

The Cuomos: A Disappointing Dynasty

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Mario Cuomo, left, and Andrew Cuomo.

Mario Cuomo, left, and Andrew Cuomo.

    Some thoughts on the demise of the Cuomo dynasty:

  • Yes, I believe the 11 women who accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment and related behavior.
  • Yes, I think he needed to resign as governor of New York.
  • Yes, I think all the prominent Democratic elected officials, starting with President Biden and including every elected Democratic member of Congress from New York was right to urge him to resign
  • No, I don’t think any Republican should have one word to say about this so long as no Republican has had one word of criticism regarding the 23 women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assaults, never mind the behaviors of Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan.
  • Yes, I find it disappointing, even sad, that what could have been a wonderful family legacy has to end in such a tawdry manner.

                                                                 ***

     Let’s start with Cuomo the elder, Mario, the late governor who might have been president. It’s good that he’s not around to witness what his son has wrought.

      Mario, of course, was the source of one of Democrats’ greatest disappointments when he decided, in dramatic fashion, not to run for president in 1992. In his third term as governor at the time, he was easily the most popular choice among Democrats to challenge the Republican incumbent, George H.W. Bush.

         Cuomo had put himself in that position with his progressive policies as governor and a stirring keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention in which he turned Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill“ into a “tale of two cities,“ one thriving, one not, with the kind of speech that often kicks off presidential campaigns for politicians without a broad national reputation. It did so for Barack Obama. It was also there for Cuomo, a skilled orator.         

          But progressive Democrats’ hopes and Mario Cuomo‘s presidential campaign never took off. Literally. On Dec. 20, 1991, the filing deadline for the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire, Cuomo was in the midst of budget negotiations with the Republican-led State Senate and the Democrat-led State Assembly. Candidates have to file the nominating petitions in person in New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary in the country, a place for candidates to grab an early lead. Cuomo had a plane idling on the runway in Albany waiting to fly him to New Hampshire. He previously had said he would file if he had finalized a budget with the legislators. With no agreement in Albany, Cuomo opted not to fly to New Hampshire and then come back to work on the budget. He said that would break his pledge to New Yorkers. A lot of New Yorkers and Democrats elsewhere would have forgiven this transgression. But Cuomo stayed home, Bill Clinton eventually captured the Democratic nomination and won the presidential election. Cuomo was defeated in his bid for a fourth term by Republican George Pataki, the mayor of Peekskill, a small upstate city. Cuomo left politics, eventually joining a law firm in New York City.

   Andrew Cuomo got his start in politics managing his father’s gubernatorial campaign. His work founding a housing non-profit in New York City and as chair of the New York City Homeless Commission led to positions of Undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development and then Secretary of HUD in the Clinton administration. Cuomo returned to New York and was eventually elected attorney general and then governor.

      Like his father, he was elected to three terms.    Unlike his father, however, Andrew always had the aura of the hard-nosed politician about him. Some called him a bully. Some of his closest aides did not understand the governmental policy of transparency. Both men were responsible for a number of progressive changes in the state. Mario eliminated the death penalty. Andrew instituted the toughest gun control laws in the nation. Both men had outsized personalities and egos, not uncommon in politics. But whereas his father could  hold his ego in check most of the time, Andrew tended to wear his for all to see.

        Ego led to his downfall. While receiving nationwide praise for his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic in New York, his staff also hid devastating numbers of deaths that resulted from his decision to transfer seriously ill patients from hospitals to nursing homes. That lack of transparency — lying — made it impossible for anyone to believe his claims of innocence when women started accusing him of sexual harassment. That, and the fact the women had nothing to gain by lying.

         The sense of service Andrew Cuomo inherited from his father became overshadowed by a sense of survival and entitlement. He was the boss.

         No more. New Yorkers will soon have their first woman governor, Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor. Like his father, Cuomo chose a little known politician from western New York state to be his running mate. Mario hat Stan Lundine; Andrew had Hochul.

          If she’s interested in running for governor on her own next year, she’ll have a tough challenge letting New Yorkers know who she is. Plus, she’s from Buffalo, the Midwest. It would seem to make the field wide-open. However, if New Yorkers are interested in having a woman governor and if Democrats are looking for someone with name recognition, I have two words: Hillary Clinton. She’s experienced and local, but like Mario Cuomo once upon a time, may not be available. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.

         Ultimately, Mario Cuomo’s hemming and hawing about running for president led to him being called Hamlet on the Hudson. A brilliant disappointment. Still, that’s much better than Groper in the Governor’s Office. A sad end to a dynasty, to be sure.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

           

 

Conflicts of Interest Don’t Just ‘Happen’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

B38B4BB8-7234-4325-B13F-8A4490131428     A funny thing happened to Ed Diana on the way to his $500-a-week, no-show job arranged through the public industrial development agency of the county he ran for a dozen years. He got caught.

     That’s the only thing that “happened“ to Diana, despite what his lawyer would have you believe. Everything else he made happen.

      This is a big story in Orange County, New York, which is about an hours drive northwest from New York City, but it’s about greed and political corruption, so it has implications nationwide. And yes, as with most such stories these days, it involves Republicans, but at least this time, some of them are on the right side of the law.

       Diana, who served three terms as county executive in Orange, recently pleaded guilty to two counts of filing a false instrument. Specifically, he signed a form which states that, as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County IDA, as vice chairman in fact, he had no conflict of interest with the business of that agency. That he had no tangible personal gain arising from that relationship.

       In fact, though, he did. Lying on this form is a felony in New York State. Diana did it twice. He also played guilty to a misdemeanor charge of conflict of interest.

        “If this could happen to Ed Diana, this could happen to anyone,” Diana’s lawyer, Ben Ostrer, said, speaking to the press after Diana’s guilty plea in court. “If you are in government service be thankful it isn’t you.”

         What a load of bull, even for a lawyer in the Rudy Giuliani era.

          In addition to his three times as county executive, Diana also served on the county legislature and a couple of terms as supervisor of the town of Wallkill, one of the larger towns in Orange County. Three decades of public service as an elected official in Orange County. With that experience, you should be able to smell a potential conflict of interest about three months down the road. Yet Ostrer would have us believe it could happen to “anyone.“

          Diana was allowed to plead guilty to avoid a prison term. He agreed to repay the IDA $90,000. He said he had been paid as a “consultant” for three-and-a-half years. In addition to Diana, the former CEO of the IDA pleaded guilty to a charge of corrupting government and agreed to re-pay $175,000 for her no-show job.

           The phantom jobs were with a company owned by the former paid managing director of the IDA, who the prosecutor said was the motivating force and worst actor in this case. He steered firms looking to do business in Orange County to his companies for equipment, planning, office space and technical assistance. Over time, he also raised the rates for the services. He pleaded guilty to corrupting government and agreed to repay $1 million. He will be on probation for five years. All three will be officially sentenced in September.

            All of this “happened” while the board of directors, which other than Diana, also included the chairman of the county legislature, looked the other way or napped during board meetings. Same for the board’s lawyer. The county legislature fired the entire board a couple of months ago when it learned of District Attorney David Hoovler’s investigation. The DA, like Diana, a Republican, said he didn’t file charges against any other board members or their lawyer, because “There’s no criminal liability for incompetence.” Sometimes that means prosecutors can’t prove intent.

      Hoovler pointed out that no money had been stolen, per se, and that all the monies paid to people who shouldn’t have been paid had been accounted for. You say tomato, I say tomahto. People got money they shouldn’t have gotten because of their positions and the money could’ve been used by the IDA for other purposes. In the process, the integrity of the IDA was badly damaged. As a public agency whose primary tool is the awarding of tax breaks to companies looking to locate in its county, trust is far more valuable than cash. The new Orange IDA board must work hard to rebuild that trust.

      It can start by knowing that conflicts of interest don’t just “happen.” Not in Orange County, New York, or anywhere else. They are created. A defining feature of much of today’s Republican Party, on a national level as well as at the local level, is a casual disregard for the rule of law and an arrogant disdain for the truth. That’s a fact. I don’t like writing it, but it’s true. I think it represents a major threat to our democracy.  (In this case, the current Orange County executive, also a Republican, sharply criticized the corrupt arrangement  and called for the state to toughen the punishment for such crimes.)

       When one of our two major parties decides it can unilaterally make up the rules as it goes along  and concoct excuses to avoid responsibility, we are in serious trouble. If people will buy the big lie — The election was stolen. There was no insurrection — why not try a “little” one? “If this can happen to Ed Diana, it can happen to anyone.”

     No it can’t.  Witness the thousands of New Yorkers who serve on public and private boards of directors without such happenings. Of such molehills are mountains created. Lying and entitlement are addictive. So is power. The antidote is truth. Hold public officials accountable. Make them explain their actions. Trust must be earned, today more than ever.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

A Juice Bar, to Feed Body and Soul

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

IR Photography Cornelius Houston, the smoothies guy

                     IR Photography
Cornelius Houston … the smoothies guy

There’s a new juice bar in my town. This is good news because it means someone thinks the town, Pine Bush, is ready to take that next step from “you’ve got potential” to “Where can I get a blueberry-kale-banana-beets-coconut water-smoothie?”

Why, right there on Main Street, fella, smack dab between the vegetarian/vegan restaurant and the health food store.

There was a time not so long ago that one could write about small towns and new businesses — “good news” — without feeling the need to explain that the motivation was at least partially to preserve one’s sanity and to reaffirm the belief that societies can survive even deeply disturbing times, such as ours, when “ordinary’ people do out-of-the-ordinary things because it feels right to them and it might be good for others as well.

Call this a mental health column.

So, smoothies …

I’m not a health food fanatic, but I do recognize and appreciate the benefits of being selective in what I ingest. As I’ve written about previously, my eating and exercise habits changed dramatically five years ago after a long-ignored visit to a doctor. Any doctor. The doctor I went to suggested I lose weight and avoid sugars, salt, red meat and fried or processed foods. The Great American Diet. Get some exercise, too.

She was pretty clear about the benefits of following her “suggestions” and just as clear about the likely consequences of ignoring them. To my credit, I’ve been doing my best to do as the doctor suggested without going to extremes. With the help of a persistent partner, I’ve lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I feel healthier, look better and eat very well, thank you.

This is why the smoothies guy coming to town was good news. It’s tasty food, healthful and a nice complement to the fine Asian, Italian and Mexican food already available.

The smoothies guy has a name, Cornelius Houston. He’s 38 years old, a big, friendly guy who says he got tired of not having a place to get the kind of healthful food he wanted in his town, “So I decided to open one myself.”

His establishment, Healthy Temptations, serves juices (orange, beet, carrot), smoothies (from the menu of fruits and veggies or create your own), salads, wraps and, yes, foodies, avocado toast with toppings and a baked bread that is a true treat.

Houston also grinds out wheatgrass shots for those who are fans of this superfood. It contains potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. It even contains some protein. A sign in the juice bar says one wheatgrass shot is the equivalent of 2 1/2 pounds of green salad.

While the science is still officially out on wheatgrass, health claims for it include acting as an antioxidant, fighting infections, managing gastrointestinal processes (it’s gluten-free) and providing energy. A lot of people swear by it. In my case, the jury is also out on taste, so I’m easing into it by taking a sip of my partner’s regular shot. She loves it.

My point here is not to try to convince anyone to like wheatgrass or smoothies or, heaven forbid, maybe to eat more healthful foods. Experience has taught me that, despite the conventional wisdom, you can talk to people about religion and sometimes politics, but don’t even suggest that they skip the cheesecake and try the fruit bowl. Not if you want to remain friends. Americans believe they have a god-given right to eat what they want, whenever they want and as much as they want. It says so in the Constitution, or something like that.

So be it. I’m just impressed to see a man take matters into his own hands and open a business in which he has no experience because he saw a need no one was addressing. That’s how communities grow and prosper.

I’m happy my partner can get her energizing wheatgrass shots whenever she wants and I can mix and match smoothies ingredients to suit my taste and that Houston offers tofu as well as chicken on his salads.

I’m glad Pine Bush now has a juice bar to go with its UFO parade and spectacular view on its list of “cool things.”

I’m pleased that others have noticed Healthy Temptations, which suggests that living healthier may be catching on. That’s encouraging. I think it’s more important than ever to be fit in body, mind and spirit these days and what’s good for the body is good for the soul.

I also think it’s fascinating and not altogether accidental that, in this two-stoplight town, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Stewart’s are located at the light on one end of Main Street and a vegetarian restaurant, health food store and juice bar are blended together at the other end. Synchronicity personified and a very smooth Feng Shui, Pine Bush.

(The writer has no personal connection with Healthy Temptations or its owners. Pine Bush is located in Orange County, New York, about a two-hour drive from New York City. It enjoys a beautiful view of the Shawangunk RIdge and has been known to attract UFOs.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com