As New Yorkers, we’ve endured a long and arduous year. Luckily as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, our positivity rate declines and we progress closer to herd immunity, there’s finally light on the horizon.
That is, unless you’re Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
For most of the pandemic, Americans drew hope and inspiration from our governor and looked to him for a calm and level-headed approach to a crisis that was quickly upending traditional life.
Now, over 13 months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in New York state, our once “fearless” leader has essentially vanished from public view and abandoned the historic Capitol red room, the site of his former highly-viewed daily COVID-19 briefings.
Plagued with allegations and investigations ranging from sexual harassment to his administration’s handling of nursing homes during the early onset of the pandemic, Cuomo understands his days of basking in the spotlight are over and has declined to hold an in-person press conference since December.
Ironically, he sites COVID-19 safety precautions as reason for his flagrant shift to Zoom and telephone conference calls. Yet he was happy to indulge the press last year when New York’s COVID-19 deaths and cases peaked.
These days, reporters are seldom given the opportunity to question the governor. When they are permitted to join one of Cuomo’s conference calls, a select few are selected to speak and the governor’s aides usually cut off or monitor any follow-up questions.
With passage of the state budget, the governor’s influence will likely become less and less visible. He will continue evading the press and avoiding the numerous scandals afflicting him. However, New Yorkers are still struggling and deserve the same level of visibility and accountability we saw a year ago.
The future is blurry for Cuomo, but if he truly has nothing to hide he should reestablish an open dialogue with the media and the residents of New York. I haven’t read it, but I doubt avoiding the press is a component touted in his leadership novel, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Freedom of the press is a fundamental element of our democracy that ensures an open and transparent government, and we can’t make an exception now.
Albany County Legislature