COLUMN: Time for region, Gov. Cuomo to build on ‘signature wins’

Signature wins are important.

Governing at any level is tough because big wins — or signature wins — don’t come easily. They take years of work and what must feel like endless effort, and even then, some people will still find fault with them.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Geneva on Friday, unveiling the new Finger Lakes Welcome Center as part of the overall “win” Geneva encountered last year with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

For Geneva — and even for the Finger Lakes as a whole — both things are very, very good.

That said, it’s hard to celebrate too loudly about all the good things that come along with the DRI for Geneva residents when the former Geneva Foundry issue is far, far from being totally resolved.

I don’t say that to fan the flames, nor to rain on anyone’s parade in Geneva but if anyone owns blame after Friday, it’s the Governor for not being in-front on the foundry cleanup.

Some will say that’s a local issue that didn’t require his attention, but the pulse in Geneva — as well as the state DEC’s involvement — would suggest that it’s a regional and/or state issue worthy of his time and words.

Signature wins — like capturing a $10 million award from the state — are important. They are tone setters. They establish the path for all other action and policy that follows.

Gov. Cuomo has had his eye on signature wins because despite the good things he said about the region, economy, and outlook, many people feel like things are going the wrong way.

He talked about taxes that have gone down under his watch, private-sector growth that hasn’t been seen in New York in ages and several other buzz worthy items that could be lumped into the “big win” category.

It takes a special skill, timing, and a little bit of luck to take signature wins and translate them into long-term success. While the Governor can talk about all the great things happening in the Finger Lakes, as well as in Upstate New York, it’s hard to overlook some of the not-so-good things happening simultaneously.

Not sure what I mean?

Look north.

Lake Ontario has become a living nightmare for the folks who live along its shoreline in Wayne, Cayuga, and Monroe counties. The Governor has talked about some funding for homeowners, businesses, and those left with the task of cleaning up the mess — whenever that becomes possible.

The headlines were great: Millions made available by Gov. Cuomo for lakeshore residents.

The truth is that the flooding will cost residents more in time, money, and energy than they ever will be reimbursed from insurance, the government or anyone else.

That’s why hearing the Governor give what felt like a classroom 101-style lecture on the subject he is either deceptively using — or unknowingly let pass — was so disappointing.

His message was simple: Saying and doing are two different things. Doing is difficult, and anyone can say what should be done from the sidelines.

Along Lake Ontario, the signature win is “funding” for lakeshore residents, which means great headlines and some financial help. But, it’s anything but a real solution for the folks living there.

Likewise, a Welcome Center and $10 million to make Geneva better are signature wins, which will be great for the Governor and his re-election bid in 2018. They will be great for residents of Geneva and will provide the city with the opportunity to increase its overall value in the Finger Lakes.

That said, this positive momentum and clout must translate to more. All the plans can come together, but if solutions and answers are not reached regarding the foundry, or the Governor’s interest in “helping” the Finger Lakes suddenly fades after a successful re-election bid in 2018, Geneva will be no better off than it was before the $10 million win.

Signature wins provide the opportunity to lay out meaningful policy and make a serious impact. It’s time for that to happen.

This column was originally published in the Finger Lakes Times. Read more here.

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