Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on The Roundtable with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Joe Donahue: Welcome back to the roundtable. Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo is with us to speak with Dr. Alan Chartock. Good morning.
Governor Cuomo: Good morning.
Alan Chartock: Okay, Governor. First of all thanks for showing up. We always appreciate that and if you can make some news that's better because we get our names in the paper along with
Governor Cuomo: I'll make news. I'll make up the news just to get your name in the paper.
Alan Chartock: First of all, how's your back? I understand that you know like me you may have a little back problem like your dad. Your dad used to leave [inaudible] wherever he went with the Empire State emblem on them. But how is yours?
Governor Cuomo: It is genetic and you know when I'm in good shape, Alan, it's fine but it's sort of the canary in the coal mine for me and what kind of shape I'm in. Am I sleeping, am I exercising, but it's been hot and cold. You know we're at the end of legislative session so the stress is high, you're not sleeping and that's when it's been problematic, but it's not a pain in the neck. It's a pain in the back.
Alan Chartock: Your father once told me about John Sarno. I was complaining about my back - Dr. Sarno on backs. Then he said you know Sarno's philosophy was that the back is the great repository of all emotional distress and if you solve that problem then you know your back is going to get better. I argued with him about it on the air but I don't think, I don't think he listened so
Governor Cuomo: He often argued and often didn't listen. Sarno was right you know the stress goes back. The muscles get tight. If you can end the stress you'll be fine. Yeah. But if you end the stress, you'll be fine across the board. That's the problem.
Alan Chartock: So I said to him, what if your wife is your problem? He said, quote, you know what to do. Well I love my wife and I have a bad back. Anyway. Okay. Tell us about the rent control stuff. I think, my position is, nobody cares more about, any issue than rent control, because it's your whole income and we're going to have rent regulations. It's a question of whether the Senate will pass them and mandate that everybody has them around the state. What's happening on that?
Governor Cuomo: Look, first for me, from a substantive level, I've done housing all my life as you know. I started in my twenties, building low-income housing, homeless housing. I was the HUD Secretary. We brought more affordable housing to this nation than any time in history. As governor I invested more than any governor in history in affordable housing. It's all political right now. And since we're down to the short strokes here the Assembly put forth a very aggressive bill. I don't believe the Senate can pass politically the Assembly bill for the political reasons we discussed. I will sign any bill the Assembly passes or any bill the Senate passes. And what I have said is, look, the Senate has to pass a bill. Stop talking, stop pontificating, pass a bill. If they don't pass the bill by tomorrow, Alan, then the rent laws will expire and then you want to hear an explosion in this state. You let those rent laws expire, so the Senate must pass a bill by tomorrow. I have told them the Assembly will pass whatever bill they pass and I will sign whatever bill they pass. The question is, what is the most aggressive bill the Senate can pass and what they're running into is the difference between politics and government and the majority and the minority, you know. When you're running for office you promise everything, right? And when you're in the minority you can say anything because it doesn't matter because you're not in the majority.
Alan Chartock: So just to be clear, I think I heard something there. I want to make sure I heard it right. Speaker Heastie has assured you that whatever the Senate Democrats do, they'll do - the Assembly will do.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, because the Assembly bill is more aggressive than any bill the Senate can pass. He put forth an eight-point bill or a nine-point bill with tenant protections. I don't believe the Senate, given their representation - not just New York City; Long Island, Upstate, etcetera - can pass as aggressive a bill. They don't want to admit it, but I don't think they can. So, the ball now shifts into their court. Let the Senate pass the best bill they can and the Assembly will pass it and I will sign it. But tomorrow is the deadline to pass the bill. They have to introduce the bill tomorrow before the Saturday expiration.
Alan Chartock: But you could do a message of necessity, couldn't you?
Governor Cuomo: I don't believe a message of necessity is justified here because there is no necessity. You know, necessity means in the public interest you wave the three-day waiting period on the ill. And it's a little bit of an antiquated rule but we've had months we've been talking about this. There is no urgency, they could've done this last week or the week before and they have today and they have tomorrow, because the laws expire Saturday.
Alan Chartock: Okay but just to be clear, are you telling me that you will not offer a message of necessity if it's warranted in order to clear this mess up?
Governor Cuomo: You're getting very demonstrative now and a tad aggressive.
Alan Chartock: That's what I do, yeah. That's what I do.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah okay, now I'm on the defensive because I sense your aggressiveness.
Alan Chartock: I want to get into the newspapers. What are you saying?
Governor Cuomo: I'm saying there is no need for a message of necessity. Pass the bill, introduce it tomorrow and get it done before the law expires on Saturday.
Alan Chartock: But yes or no? If confronted with a law expiring and they haven't done it within the three-day waiting period, will you offer a message of necessity?
Governor Cuomo: They haven't done it just because they're delinquent and they don't want the political consequences of the vote. No, I won't do it.
Alan Chartock: Now let's go on to something else.
Governor Cuomo: Did I make news for you?
Alan Chartock: Yeah, that's good.
Governor Cuomo: Okay, thank you. I just wanted to make sure.
Alan Chartock: "Governor says no I won't do it." Alright. Now let's talk a little bit about the gerrymandering. I know I've been teaching this stuff for a long time, but I must say I don't quite understand it. Other states, like Texas I remember that, when the Republicans got control of both houses, they didn't wait until the census, they just reformed all the districts and kicked a lot of Democrats out. Why can't the Democrats do that to the Republicans in New York State now instead of having to wait, which you mentioned the other day?
Governor Cuomo: We have, under our current law, an independent commission that we set up a couple of years ago with a prescribed voting basis. I can check, because you're very smart and you know more than I know on a number of issues, I don't believe they can change it now in time to make a difference, but I will check.
Alan Chartock: That's an interesting question because obviously the gerrymandering, if the Democrats misplay their hands right now, the ones who are worried about losing their jobs in Westchester, Long Island, upstate - these are Democrats, blue Democrats who won - once the gerrymander comes in and the Democrats change the districts around, those guys won't lose but now they might.
Governor Cuomo: Yes and the politics of the Senate is a double whammy. You have certain members afraid of Republican attacks and you have other members afraid of the progressive attacks. You know, the New York City members they go home, they didn't pass marijuana, they didn't pass drivers licenses, they didn't pass the rent bill that the advocates wanted, they didn't pass women's rights, they didn't pass LGBTQ rights; they're going to have challenges from the progressive left that says you promised all these things and you didn't do it. That's the tension in the Senate. The Long Island, Hudson Valley, upstate who are afraid of a general challenge and the New York City who are afraid of an aggressive primary challenge, and that's why you see like on this rent bill all sorts of different messages and they're reluctant to actually take the votes because that then codifies where they are.
Alan Chartock: Okay, I want to ask you about the Manhattan, I was fascinated by the helicopter crash the other day; it took a lot of people a long time to get to the site. Now you're a politician, you got to the site right away. Mayor de Blasio took a couple hours I believe to get there. How did that work? How do you find out about those things?
Governor Cuomo: That's interesting. You know by the way, yesterday was the trip that I was thinking of making you come on. We also did a Lake Ontario visit and we did a press conference with the LGBTQ. Emergency management is important, Doctor. And just to talk about it really for a second because it's going to be more and more important as time goes on. This extreme weather is real. These security incidents are real. Back in my father's day the only emergency they really dealt with was heavy snow fall and the big question was do you close the thruway or not.
Alan Chartock: Somebody tried toblow up the twin towers when your dad was
Governor Cuomo: Yes, that's true. There was an attack on the twin towers. But now it's almost a weekly occurrence right? Between weather and security issues. I learned about this actually when I was in the federal government. When you're in the president's cabinet technically you're in the line of succession of the presidency. So they give you the briefing if you were to become president. They bring you down into the bunker and they show you where all the armaments are. And it's a really frightening, really reality based of how this world could devolve. The quote on quote designated survivor, one of the cabinet member sits out during the state of the union which I did several times, they then give you a refresher briefing in the bunker. And how people handle an emergency I think is a really serious question for elected officials. My instinct is to get to the site immediately. You know rather than sit in a bunker or sit in an office and get reports of what's going on, I like to be on site.
Alan Chartock: Is that a criticism of Mayor de Blasio?
Governor Cuomo: No, no, no, no. Different officials do it differently. Many go to a incident management center and get reports and coordinate from there. I've done that on occasion also when it's a statewide situation and it's not site specific. But when its site specific, my druthers and my preference is to show up. Why? First of all you get the information first hand. Life is still a game of communication. And this said to this one said to this one.
The first report we got yesterday was from a, I was at a press conference and a reporter said to me did you hear about the small plane that crashed into a building in Manhattan? My heart almost stopped beating in my chest. You know, I think New Yorkers have a form of PTSD who lived through 9/11. And that's immediately where I went. But even the best trained emergency responders it's still a game of communication. This one said to this commander said to this commander and then. So being on site to get the information first hand. I also believe when it's serious situation people are glued to the TV like yesterday - is this a terrorist attack? They want to hear from someone in authority and I believe that's what a part of the governor's job is.
Alan Chartock: Well, thenisn't it part of the Mayor's job?
Governor Cuomo: Yes. FirstI don't know what his protocol is, and I just I can't speak for him yesterday.
Alan Chartock: He may have been working out, he may have had another I don't know. I wanted to ask you from the department of good news and bad news, the Siena poll is out. And it shows that you're doing a good job, people like you. But they don't want you to seek a fourth term. So I'm wondering you know do you get hurt when you read something like that?
Governor Cuomo: I used to get hurt.I used to get hurt when people said nasty things about me. I don't get hurt so much anymore. You reach a threshold of pain where it just doesn't hurt anymore. No look, I think, I was flattered the popularity numbers are good and it's ugly time. Because it's an ugly partisan time. It's red and blue. And Democratic and Republic. And all Democrats are bad or all Democrats are good. So I felt good about that. The question, should he run a fourth term? You know I don't know really what that triggers in people. Sounds like a lot of terms. Four terms, sounds like a long time. But look, when you say to someone, do you intend to serve in your current position? I would hope the answer is yes. If a person believes in what they're doing, and has undertaken a lot of projects and wants to see them through and get things done, I would hope that they would say yes. You're about to go under the knife with the doctor and you say to the doctor, are you happy with what you're doing? The doctor says, no, I'd really like to be a musician, that's where my passion—you know, get me another doctor. And we do have a lot of long-term projects that I want to make sure I get complete. So that is my current plan. I just started three years, a lot can happen, I could drop dead, you know, who knows what happens.
Alan Chartock: Oh no. Don't say that. Let's talk a little bit about the judge who came out yesterday and said a ban on outside income—it was on Friday actually—for state lawmakers, you know, when they passed the pay raise they said you can't make anything on the outside, which I thoroughly applaud. I think it's great. So now, it's possible I guess lawmakers could get a big raise for 2020 and 2021 without a cap on outside income. What do you think of that?
Governor Cuomo: Well, this is now a very important call that the legislature has to make and it's going to be personal to them. I don't really understand the judge's ruling and the legal theory behind it, but you're right, the judge said they can get the raise this year but they can't get the raise next year because the commission said it was precedent on a ban on outside income and the commission can't do the ban on outside income.
Alan Chartock: And that starts next year, is that why—that's the difference, okay.
Governor Cuomo: Yes. Now the legislature has several options. They can appeal the suit and hope they win or they can pass the ban on outside income, which would alleviate the problem. If they keep taking the raise and they don't pass the ban on outside income, then they're going to run into the Alan Chartocks of the world who say, you got the raise, you were supposed to give up the outside income and you didn't. And that's a political issue. If they pass the ban, I think that resolves the legal issues. If they appeal the lawsuit and lose, then they may not get a raise for another three years, which I think would make them very unhappy and which would be unfair, right? Because they hadn't had a raise in 17 years and I thought this was fair. So it's going to be up to them because it's about them and it's very personal to them. But it's an important call because if you don't get a raise for three years, you're going to have a very unhappy legislature and I think they will be treated unfairly and my fear is they seek other positions. You know, a majority come from New York City. They can run for the New York City Council, they can make more money, and they can be home with their family. So it's an important decision, but it's going to be up to the legislature.
Alan Chartock: Okay. You got rid of Michael Lynton from the MTA board because you said, or sources said, you thought he was too independent. What, too independent? What was that about?
Governor Cuomo: That's a lot of malarkey, garbage, baloney, gossip, rumors. I don't even believe Michael Lynton voted on anything or said anything because he was just on the Board a couple of weeks. What happened is this: the MTA in my opinion has serious management issues and the US Attorney started an investigation, the Queens DA started an investigation, the Inspector General - who's new and phenomenal - came up with some revelations that are really startling. They need management help and financial fraud help. We gave them a ton of money more funding does not help if you don't have good management. The Board needs good management.
Alan Chartock: But didn't you put this guy on the Board?
Governor Cuomo: I him on and Fernando Ferrer, who's a star. Michael Lynton, when I put him on, the need was to bring new tech firms into the MTA sphere because the MTA keeps contracting with these bad contractors who I believe they have an incestuous relationship with. And the new issue became these, over the past couple of weeks, the US attorney's investigation the Queens DA in vandalism of time and attendance systems. So, the way a coach will shift players depending on what's happening on the court, basketball, and the need Michael Lynton, who's great, and is from the tech world and I think that bringing new tech vendors. Today the need is financial expertise, anti-fraud systems. So I switched for the state budget director, who is a financial wizard, in my opinion, and can safeguard the state money and the Department of Financial Services commissioner who is a former federal prosecutor and is very good on financial fraud. It had nothing to do with Fernando Ferrer or Michael Lynton, who are both great, I'm going to put them on other boards. Freddy Ferrer is already on the CUNY board. Lynton can be of help and we're going to put him on another board. But they were only there a couple weeks and the switch was only because the facts changed. And now we need it. We were down ten points and we needed a strong center and a power forward. And that's what I did.
Alan Chartock: You said incestuous relationship. I was fascinated by that. You know, some of the vendors and some of the people on the board. Anything specific you want to point out?
Governor Cuomo: It is a, I call it the Transportation Industrial Complex. They contract with the same vendors, many of whom have hired former MTA personnel, despite the fact that the vendor has disappointed repeatedly. It is incestuous and incestuous is the best word. If I had my attorney general hat on, I might raise other possibilities. But, we passed the law in this state to stop it. And we said you can't contract with a contractor who's been more than ten percent over budget or more than ten percent late. They still want to go back to the same vendors.
Alan Chartock: Why?
Governor Cuomo: That is the great question, why? They will say, "nobody will contract with us." I think that's a lot of boloney. They're giving out billion dollar contracts. There are a lot of companies who will bid on a billion dollar contract. I think it's the vendors who they have relationships with.
Alan Chartock: What kind of relationships?
Governor Cuomo: I'm not saying it's necessarily nefarious. It could just be personal. It could be political pressure.
Alan Chartock: How about financial?
Governor Cuomo: That would be a crime and I wouldn't go there yet. But, putting on Linda Lacewell who's a former federal prosecutor and prosecutes financial fraud. She did the Enron case. I want that expertise on the board now.
Alan Chartock: Got it, got it. Dick Gottfried wants to decriminalize sex work in New York state, sex workers. We've talked about this before. Think it's a good idea?
Governor Cuomo: They put forth a bill, I think yesterday. There's only like six days left in the legislative session and this is going to be a controversial issue
Alan Chartock: Yeah, but is it a good idea? But is it a good idea?
Governor Cuomo: I haven't read the bill and I haven't studied the bill and I don't know in six days that it's going to get the deliberation that it actually requires for any legislator to actually take a vote.
Alan Chartock: Let me ask you this, the sports gambling, upstate casinos, the go ahead. Well then there are casinos, but mobile sports betting is not allowed in New York, yet, what's the difference here?
Governor Cuomo: The difference is right now you have to go into an upstate casino. We did the casinos in upstate New York, not because it was the greatest industry in the world, but because upstate New York's economy's been suffering for decades, it's a nation phenomenon, et cetera. But the casinos have brought thousands and thousands of jobs to upstate New York and invested billions of dollars. So right now the fact that you have to do your business through an upstate casino doesn't bother me because it was about bringing business to upstate casinos. Now, other gaming interests
Governor Cuomo: Now other gaming interests want to get their piece of the pie and I understand that. But I am not a tremendous fan of rampant gambling to begin with. You look at these statistics of who winds up winning and losing and the socioeconomic status so until we study it more and understand it better, the fact that we're channeling that work to the upstate casinos and that business, I think that's a good thing for the state Alan.
Alan Chartock: Carl McCall the controller Former controller Carl McCall retiring from the SUNY board of Trustees at the end of June, things were not always all that good between the two of you - you ran against him one time, I remember that or you were going to. So he's gone. He's going from his Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of SUNY - how are you getting along these days?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, I was in a race against him at one time many, many years ago. That is politics though, you know. I have tremendous respect for him and he has been a pioneer. He was the state senator, he was one of the first really breakthrough African American politicians who just has done a phenomenal job. He has had federal service, he did a beautiful job at SUNY, he is a beautiful role model. I can't say enough good things about him and this state owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Alan Chartock: Yeah he once stood up here at WMAC before the podium and read ML King's "I have a dream" speech - there wasn't a dry eye in the house. What a guy. He's terrific.
Governor Cuomo: What a guy. Beautiful. Educated. Integrity. I mean really one of the special public servants.
Alan Chartock: Talk to me about we only have a couple seconds now but Comptroller DiNapoli is bristling in a bill that would require the state pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. Now I know that you have always thought that we should divest from fossil fuels. But what do you make of DiNapoli who says, 'Hey I got no choice. I'm supposed to guarantee a return on the investments we make.' I'm a big fan of DiNapoli as you know, so what do you think of that?
Governor Cuomo: I think, my position is that he should divest. I think there are other investments where you can also get a return. I would disagree with your characterization that he bristled. I know the Comptroller a long time - bristling is not an attractive quality
Alan Chartock: Who bristles? A porcupine bristles?
Governor Cuomo: ... A prickliness, a porcupiness. An irascible personality. I can't see him bristling so I'm sure he has a different opinion, but I don't think Tom would ever bristle.
Alan Chartock: No, there were times when you and he weren't doing that well together, but now you're pals right?
Governor Cuomo: But even then he didn't bristle.
Alan Chartock: He didn't?
Governor Cuomo: No I don't think he's the type of personality to bristle.
Alan Chartock: He's not a bristler.
Governor Cuomo: You know you can bristle. I can bristle. I don't think Tom bristles.
Alan Chartock: Okay so one last thing and that is driver's licenses. The Siena Poll says voters oppose granting drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants. Should the democrats abandon this legislation?
Governor Cuomo: I think they should've passed it. I think you're down to the six days and when you get to this point, don't expect them to take up any controversial issues they don't have to take up. What they're telling you when they get to this place in the session - six days - and they haven't acted, it means they don't want to act. They don't say that but actions speak louder than words. So, marijuana, drivers' licenses, I'm going to push today again for surrogacy and ending the gay panic defense for the LGBTQ community, the ERA for women's rights. But what they're telling you is they're not prepared to do it, they're only prepared for what they have to do. Rent, they have to do because the law is going to expire. But I'm pushing very hard for them to do some good things that I think they still can do.
Alan Chartock: Okay, but here's the problem, the problem is we're out of time. You know I have to put up with the recriminations from DeRosa and from Azzopardi. You just wash your hands in the whole thing, you say 'It's not my fault.' But I'll be in trouble with those people and that's the last place in New York State you want to be.
Governor Cuomo: Alan, I'm going to bristle now. I don't think that's why you chase me off the phone. I think you use them as a ploy. I just think you want to end the conversation.
Alan Chartock: Not at all, it says
Governor Cuomo: So rather than saying, 'I don't want to talk to you anymore, I have another guest, I have other things I have to do, you're boring,' I think you blame them for wanting to get me off the phone. That's what I actually think.
Alan Chartock: You make a good point. It's always great to talk to you, Governor and I hope you'll keep coming back because it's fun.
Governor Cuomo: Stop bristling, stop bristling. Have a good day.
Alan Chartock: You too.