Posted on November 14, 2011

Cuomo Tries to Shore Up the Support of Minorities

Thomas Kaplan, New York Times, November 13, 2011

The crowd of Hispanic legislators and business leaders from New York, sipping cocktails at a sleek hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, abruptly halted their conversations as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, fresh off a 1,600-mile flight, came in through a side entrance on Friday.

Well-wishers pulled out their cellphones and digital cameras and swarmed the governor–so many that it took him several minutes to cross the room and make his way to the microphone.

Assemblyman Félix W. Ortiz, a Brooklyn Democrat, introduced Mr. Cuomo as “a real friend and a real hero of the Hispanic community,” and declared that no governor in recent times had been more supportive of Latinos. Mr. Cuomo, in turn, declared his support for bringing diversity to state government and promised to push for action to combat joblessness among minority youths.

The enthusiasm that greeted Mr. Cuomo almost, but not quite, obscured the underlying reason he chose this conference, called Somos el Futuro, for his first official out-of-state trip since his inauguration.

Over the last several weeks, the governor has been lavishing attention on minority communities amid signs that some were growing impatient with what they perceived as a lack of attention to their concerns.

The governor’s signature economic measure thus far–a property tax cap–does not affect New York City residents, and he opposes a top priority for many minority lawmakers: an extension of the state’s so-called millionaires’ tax, which is to expire on Dec. 31. His travel itinerary has focused heavily on New York City suburbs and upstate communities; when he toured the state to describe his legislative priorities this year, he did not hold a single event in a minority neighborhood in New York City. In July, The Amsterdam News, a black newspaper, published an article with the headline, “Black Community to Andrew Cuomo: Where Are You?”


{snip} On the day before his trip here, Mr. Cuomo announced the appointments of two Hispanics to posts in his administration; he had named two other minority officials to jobs the week before.

{snip} And last month, he met with members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus in his office in Midtown Manhattan to discuss their priorities.

In his 11-minute speech here on Friday, Mr. Cuomo cited several achievements of his first months in office: doubling the state’s goal for participation by businesses owned by members of minority groups and women in state contracting; suspending the state’s participation in a controversial federal immigration enforcement plan; closing some prisons and juvenile justice centers and directing state agencies to provide free interpretation and translation services in six foreign languages.