If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo doesn’t want to be thought of as a control freak who can’t relinquish even a modest amount of power, he’s not doing a good job of communicating this message.
Last week was a prime example. He previously established regional control rooms as part of the process of moving through different phases of reopening the state during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The regional control room will monitor regional metrics during the reopening process. These regional control rooms will monitor the hospitalization rate, death rate, number of new hospitalizations, hospital bed capacity, ICU bed capacity, testing and contact tracing within its region during reopening and alert the state if the region’s metrics no longer meet the reopening guidelines and adjust the reopening plan for that region accordingly,” according to information on the New York Forward website. “Each region will reopen businesses in phases, with at least two weeks in between each phase. This allows state and local leaders to monitor the effects of the reopening and ensure hospitalization and infection rates are not increasing before moving to the next phase and permitting more economic activity. The phase-in plan prioritizes businesses considered to have a greater economic impact and inherently low risks of infection for the workers and customers followed by other businesses considered to have less economic impact and those that present a higher risk of infection spread. Additionally, when phasing in reopenings, regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.”
This definitely leaves the impression that representatives of these control rooms play a key role in determining when their respective regions can proceed into a new phase.
But as the Finger Lakes and other regions thought they were ready to move into Phase Two, the process seemed to turn.
Consider what happened in the North Country Region:
At 2 p.m. on May 27, members of the control room were led to believe by staffers from the governor’s office that everything was still on track to move into Phase Two, according to a story published May 28 by the Watertown Daily Times. But at 7 p.m. the following day, they were told a different story.
Mr. Cuomo would no longer rely on phases to reopen various regions. He would now oversee the process himself through executive orders.
The governor on May 29 eventually gave the north country and other regions, including the Finger Lakes, the green light to move into Phase Two. This was welcome news, but Mr. Cuomo created unnecessary confusion the previous day by temporarily halting the process. This angered community leaders and business owners in the regions that anticipated opening as they believed they had already been approved for lifting even more restrictions.
After engaging in this antic, many people were left with the impression that Mr. Cuomo created these control rooms merely to offer a false sense of authority. But he can’t tolerate anyone else calling the shots, so he willingly threw everything up in the air to remind us all who’s the boss.
State legislators have ceded far too much power to Mr. Cuomo. To have the 19 million people who live in our state so dependent on one individual for the basics of life does not reflect a representative government very well.
It’s time for Mr. Cuomo to give back some of the power that members of the state Legislature signed over to him during this crisis. And he needs to respect the purpose of the regional control rooms as they were initially established. If he hopes to restore any sense of trust among residents of upstate New York, he must return to sharing authority as our form of government demands.