Amidst an array of signs and slogans calling to “tax the rich” and end hydrofracking, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo addressed over 200 residents of Ithaca and the surrounding area last Thursday at the Ithaca Women’s Community Building. In his speech, Cuomo outlined his “Five Step Program for a New N.Y.,” promising to bring reform and order to the state government in Albany. The visit was a campaign stop for Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor of New York State.
The majority of Cuomo’s speech focused on a return to greatness for the Empire State after “recent episodes of embarrassments” in Albany, which he claimed was not indicative of the entire New York State government. He went on to call New York “the progressive capital of the nation,” which has produced reformers such as former United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Cuomo’s father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.
Throughout the speech, Cuomo urged the crowd to demand change.
“We have to get our act together, and we have to get our act together now,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo was introduced by the mayor of the City of Ithaca, Carolyn Peterson, who began by identifying several officials who were present — including Cornell President David Skorton, as well as members of the Ithaca City Council and Thomas Rochon, president of Ithaca College.
Peterson went on to describe Cuomo as “one of the most outstanding attorney generals in the history of New York,” listing among his accomplishments a “crackdown on health care and mortgage fraud and, more appropriate to Ithaca, reformation of student loans.”
After a short speech from his youngest daughter, Michaela Kennedy Cuomo, the Attorney General took the podium and was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowded auditorium.
He began by telling the crowd how he attempted to explain to his children Ithaca’s “inherent motto of questioning authority.” However, he said, once they pulled into town and saw the amassed protesters, “it was all explained for me.”
But after Cuomo completed his speech, some Tompkins County residents said they were not satisfied.
“I was pretty unimpressed,” said Dan Klein, a Danby town board representative. “He was not addressing what is important to me.” Specifically, Klein called Cuomo’s charge to consolidate local governments a “complete smokescreen.” In Ithaca and the surrounding towns, Klein said, “people value local autonomy.”
Additionally, Klein brought up that Cuomo failed to mention hydrofracking, the proposed method for extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, which runs beneath the Ithaca area. The process is controversial, with opponents arguing that it may taint drinking water and is harmful to the environment.
Before politicians move forward with plans to initiate hydrofracking, Klein said, they need to prove there is a safe way to go about it.
“Cuomo doesn’t understand that health has to take priority,” Elizabeth Salon, a family nurse practitioner and Ithaca resident, said as she removed her anti-hydrofracking pin. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give this to him.”