Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Who Had the Better Week—Cuomo or Christie?
Friday, June 08, 2012
Both rock stars in their own right, both trying to right their states' ships, and both building serious momentum for a potential presidential run. Every Friday, we'll look at whose week will look better on a résumé come 2016.
Check out last week's results here.
Governor Cuomo unveiled an ambitious plan for a new convention center at Aqueduct race track during his State of the State in January, and this week he was forced to kill it.
Talks between the Cuomo administration and Genting, an Asian gaming conglomerate interested in developing a combination casino and convention center, apparently failed, but not before a group connected to Cuomo accepted more than $2 million from the company and other gambling interests in December.
That such a large contribution came about a month before Cuomo announced the new convention center, as well as a push for expanded gaming in the state, was not lost on Occupy Wall Street protesters, who showed up in Albany earlier this week to present Governor Cuomo with a fake $2 million check.
The blow to Cuomo is two-fold: not only is the Aqueduct plan dead; Cuomo will face even more scrutiny in any future attempts to build casinos and convention centers, and some elements within his party don't look kindly on large political donations from private interests.
- Verdict: -2
Lowering marijuana arrests
Accepting contributions from gambling conglomerates may not sit well with Cuomo's more liberal constituents, but he may have made up some ground this week by announcing a push to lower marijuana arrests in the state.
The move comes as WNYC reporter Ailsa Chang's ongoing investigation into NYPD "stop-and-frisk" practices showed police may have been making improper marijuana arrests as a result of stop-and-frisk.
Speaking in Albany on Monday, Cuomo cited "blatent inconsistency" in the law and its enforcement, and proposed decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in public view. Under the proposed change, the penalty would be something like a traffic ticket, not an arrest.
Decriminalizing marijuana has been something mostly supported by Democrats in recent years (Republicans in the State Senate say the change won't pass). And certainly, any measure that chips away at perceived law enforcement overreach will sit well with the same crowd that might be souring on Cuomo for taking money from gambling interests. After all, Occupy protesters are all too familiar with the ways of the NYPD.
- Verdict: +1
Win for Walker, Win for Christie
Noting their similar records as governor — taking on public employee unions, killing federal rail projects — WNYC's Bob Hennelly reports:
A year before Scott Walker emerged in Wisconsin, Chris Christie rose to prominence in New Jersey, prototyping the same themes. And if Walker won big last night, so did Chris Christie, who stumped for Walker, raised funds, and regularly appeared on television for Walker – improving his own national ambitions.
Hennelly was referring to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's win earlier this week in a recall election. The recall itself rose out of opposition to policies introduced by Governor Walker last year, which included severely limiting the collective bargaining abilities of unions.
But Walker's win can be seen as voters endorsing those policies, which Hennelly notes are very similar to Christie's. It's also worth mentioning that any time a Christie-backed candidate wins an election, the Garden State guv's national stock rises.
- Verdict: +2