Home News New York is a difficult legacy for Governor Kathy Hochul – Shera Avi-Yonah

New York is a difficult legacy for Governor Kathy Hochul – Shera Avi-Yonah

by admin

12 August 2021 13:13

When Kathy Hochul becomes governor of New York in two weeks, doing a cleanup after Andrew Cuomo will be just one of her new problems.

Deputy Governor Hochul, 62, will assume the main state post after Cuomo announced her resignation on Tuesday, Aug.10, arguing that harassment allegations prevent him from governing. Politicians in New York and across the country – including President Joe Biden – have called on Cuomo to step down after a report by Attorney General Letitia James revealed that he sexually assaulted eleven women.

Hochul, who had a long apprenticeship in state politics in the Democratic ranks, will be interim governor until the end of Cuomo’s current term, scheduled for December 2022.

Taking office after a scandal is not new for Hochul, who won a 2011 by-election to the US Congress after an extramarital affair left his predecessor in ruins. But it also faces other challenges: rising covid-19 cases, a slow economic recovery, a budget crisis, and a weakened state government from Cuomo’s last and tumultuous year as governor.

The mess tin
Her allies claim she is ready. Since entering politics four decades ago, Hochul has served in municipal, county, state and federal offices. As a deputy governor, she also traveled to every county in New York to court local officials.

“Serving in elected office is like job training. When you get elected, the more you do a job, the more you learn to do it better, ”said the majority leader of the state assembly Crystal Peoples-Stokes, which represents Hochul’s hometown of Buffalo. “For someone preparing to become governor, I think she is more qualified than many others.”

Hochul mostly deserted the pandemic press conferences that made Cuomo famous last year. Now he will have to create his own approach to managing the response to the pandemic, with cases increasing and groups of New Yorkers remaining unvaccinated.

Cuomo said last week that local governments must decide whether to reintroduce the requirement to wear closed face masks, a move New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opposed. It will be difficult for Hochul to go any further, because the New York state parliament has taken away from the governor the authority to issue directives without his approval.

Cuomo also made vaccines or weekly tests mandatory for more than seventy thousand civil servants, including workers from the Metropolitan Transport Authority and the Port Authority. Nonetheless, the general pace of vaccinations has slowed significantly, and the averages of hospitalizations and deaths are rising again. To reverse these trends, Hochul will need to work with a New York state health department that emptied while Cuomo was in office.

Cuomo’s scandals resulted in a stampede of his main advisors

Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at City University of New York and a former city health officer, said Hochul will have to change course from Cuomo, who has often relied more on private consultants and hospital managers than state health officials.

“Cuomo, in my rather arrogant way, thought he could do it all by himself, with a lot of subject matter experts put together in a non-transparent way,” Nash said. “At the state level you need people who have technical expertise, but also a clear understanding of how things work on the ground, in the counties and in the city.”

In his view, among other things, Hochul should make vaccines mandatory for nursing home workers, and push the state parliament to reinstate the obligation to wear masks.

Although political issues are at the center of Hochul’s attention, with schools reopening and the inevitable emergence of small outbreaks, the pandemic “is about to return in full force, regardless of how much time Hochul has available,” he said. Cornell University epidemiologist Isaac Weisfuse.

Hochul will also have to watch over the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic, distributing billions in federal aid and working with the state parliament to prevent the looming budget crisis. New York City’s unemployment rate was nearly double the national average in June, but federal aid will no longer be provided in the coming weeks.

Hochul mostly avoided Cuomo’s political controversies, but now they will become his own. Cuomo’s scandals – in addition to sexual harassment, the cover-up of the number of deaths in nursing homes and the contract he obtained for his book on the pandemic – resulted in a stampede of his top advisors. This means that Hochul may have to spend his first few days urgently recruiting personnel.

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Hochul has no guarantee that he will remain in power for long. If he chooses to run for a full term this fall, he risks facing prominent New York state Democratic politicians such as James – whose relationship precipitated Cuomo’s downfall – and New York City public attorney Jumaane Williams. Both have risen to prominence in the city, which represents an important ballot pool for politicians seeking to be elected at the state level.

Peoples-Stokes declared that Hochul will also have his say in that electoral race. The lack of ties with the city will be “a big challenge for her, but it’s a tough one and I think she’ll be able to handle it,” she said.

Majority leader in the New York Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said in a statement that this is a “sad day” for New York but also an opportunity to move forward.

“We will continue to tackle the covid-19 pandemic, rebuild our economy and tackle our challenges, together,” he said. “Governor Hochul is a serious leader. United, we will complete our work in the service of the population ”.

(Translation by Federico Ferrone)


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