At an event that’s become increasingly rare in state politics, two politicians from opposing parties sat down together Monday and had a civil discussion about issues facing New York.
Democrat and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, along with Republican State Senator John DeFrancisco spoke in Albany during a forum about state issue and politics.
“To have a vibrant civic dialogue is important,” said Miner. “The fact that it’s been missing, we’ve all suffered for that."
Senator DeFrancisco, who is also from Syracuse, agrees.
“We have to have more open government and more dialogue,” DeFrancisco said. “And better policies.”
At the forum, held by the Bull Moose Club, a political and business venture, Miner and DeFrancisco disagreed politely on whether marijuana should be legal in the state. Miner is for it, DeFrancisco against it. And they differed on the best strategy to increase voter participation. DeFrancisco says if politicians behaved better, and talked about issues, more people would come to the polls, Miner says voter access needs to be expanded.
Miner and DeFranscio, who are both potential gubernatorial candidates, were united, though, in their criticism of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development programs and the accompanying multimillion dollar TV ad campaigns, which Miner calls “sound bite government”. She also critiques the governor’s tax free incentives program for new businesses, known as Start Up New York. She says focusing on the state’s crumbling roads, bridges and aging sewer systems infrastructure would work better.
“We have to go back to the basics of governing,” Miner said. “Let’s invest in our infrastructure. Let's invest in the people who live here. When we do that, they themselves will start the economic growth that will start to catalyze and help populate our state again."
DeFranciso agrees, saying small businesses are leaving the state because of the taxes and regulations, saying they can’t make money. He also took shots at an empty LED lighting factory near Syracuse, built with state funding. The project stalled after the construction company involved was charged with corruption. Officials at COR Development face trial in 2018.
“Some company out of God knows where getting $70 million, and by the way, the building still isn’t up,” DeFrancisco said. “That is so frustrating. You turn it around by making a broad-based economic development policy where everybody benefits, not the few and show that there is hope and opportunity."
DeFrancisco also criticized Cuomo for taking over the distribution of economic development project grants from the legislature, calling the governor the “chief porkster”.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Neither the senator nor the mayor would commit to actually launching a campaign for governor for the November 2018 elections. Senator DeFrancisco says he’s continuing to travel the state, and talk with county chairs.
“I’ll make a decision as soon as I possibly can,” he said “I don’t want to go on a fool’s errand.”
But he says if there’s chance to raise money and be a viable candidate, he will “go for it”.
Miner says right now she’s focusing on wrapping up her time as mayor, which ends December 31. Term limits restricted her to two terms in office.
“What I’ve said to my family is ‘I’m going to get some good sleep in and some good meals in’,” Miner said. “And then I’ll start thinking about it in earnest.”
Miner has said she is also considering a Congressional race against House Representative John Katko.
Both say they know it’s difficult for an upstate politician to make a successful run for governor. But they both believe that Cuomo, who has said he’ll seek a third term next year, will face a competitive opponent.