Did Cuomo borrow a page from the Spitzer playbook? 

Source: AP

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced a series of policy proposals expected to be part of his forthcoming State of the State address (Matthew Hamilton’s report via the Albany Times Union provides perhaps the most comprehensive summary of the remarks). The measures will focus on additional investment in upstate New York coupled with tax benefits for small businesses. 

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle was among several Rochester politicians who praised Cuomo’s leadership on behalf of upstate New York. Some went so far as to say Gov. Cuomo is the best thing to ever happen for upstate New York. 

Gov. Cuomo’s economic policies are not without their critics including at times this blog. However, it could be suggested that a predecessor to Gov. Cuomo helped establish the framework for the new developments in upstate New York. 

The following post, which originally appeared Aug. 13, 2013 on the Democrat and Chronicle’s Editorial Blog, discusses former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s role in the renewed focus on upstate New York. 

New York residents thank former Gov. Eliot Spitzer for very little these days, except perhaps for the fodder featured on the front pages of The New York Post and Daily News. Spitzer, however, can be acknowledged for helping to bring a renewed focus to upstate New York during his brief administration, an emphasis that continues today under the current governor. In many ways, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s growing support from business leaders and concerted efforts reflect a reinvestment and strengthening of ideas that were once a central focal point of his disgraced predecessor.

In 2007, Spitzer appointed Dan Gunderson as New York State’s first upstate economic czar. An outsider with economic development experience from positions in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Gunderson was initially met with some resistance. With Spitzer’s support, he quickly gained the confidence of local officials, logging more than 28,000 miles in the first nine months of his appointment. Gunderson’s efforts helped to secure more than $110 million in funding from Restore NY for upstate-focused projects. His outreach also brought together regional leaders from upstate communities. These meetings helped to gather input for a master blueprint in support of Spitzer’s grand vision for a $1 billion upstate revitalization fund. At the height of these efforts, Spitzer even delivered a special State of the State address from Buffalo on Jan. 16, 2008. He used the speech to champion “City by City” ventures and promote funding for “transformative projects.” Spitzer’s emphasis on upstate seemed to be gaining real and meaningful traction. Within months, however, Spitzer would resign in the wake of scandal.

Nearly six years later, Gov. Cuomo has reset the vision to revitalize the upstate New York economy. Like Spitzer, Cuomo aims to leverage tourism (Spitzer called for increased funding for I Love NY), foster regional collaboration (Under Spitzer, Gunderson regularly met with upstate leaders and officials) and create innovative incentives to encourage private development at the local level (Spitzer led City by City ventures that benefited downtown projects, including Midtown Plaza). Cuomo, widely acknowledged for his achievements, has found greater success than the former governor by using a proven model of regionally-focused efforts.

While Spitzer’s legacy is forever tarnished by many poor decisions, he can be credited for making at least one good, successful decision–choosing to build the argument that upstate New York is important, both politically and economically.

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