Cuomo’s history shows his fallibility

By Larry Penner

There is more to the recent passing of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

In reference to “Cuomo’s Legacy” (Editorial, Jan. 9), he was not a reformer, but rather a proud product of the Queens County Democratic Party clubhouse machine. After losing the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 1974, Gov. Hugh Carey appointed him secretary of state in 1975.

During his race against then Congressman Ed Koch for New York City mayor in 1977, there were “Vote for Cuomo not the Homo” posters all over town.

Mario was never above using class warfare as an issue to divide and conquer. Remember his reference to Republican gubernatorial candidate Lew Lehrman’s expensive watch during a debate in 1982? Lehrman is the son of the founder of the Rite Aid drug store chain, which he eventually ran.

One of Mario’s claim to fame was being a great orator and debater. In 1986, Mario followed the infamous Rose Garden strategy in his race for a second term. His opponent was unknown and under financed. The late Republican Westchester County Executive Andrew O’Rourke had to carry a cardboard cutout of Cuomo to debate. In the end, Mario agreed to one token debate at the 11th hour.

In 1992, Mario had no problem signing off on the reapportionment plan for new state Assembly and state Senate district lines based upon the 1990 census. This bill preserved and expanded the Democrats’ control of the state Assembly, along with preserving the Republican majority in the state Senate by gerrymandering of district boundaries. So much for good government reform of state government legislative districts.

When it came to supporting public transportation, rather than increase the level of state support by billions under MTA Five Year Capital Plans, it was Mario who started the trend of having state authorities like the MTA borrow rather than providing hard cash contributions. The same was true by increasing the level of state spending and long term debt by hiding it off line under many other state authorities rather than the general budget.

We all mourn for the loss of anyone’s father. Mario is not worthy of sainthood. He was a mere mortal, like the rest of us.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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