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Cuomo challenger says state lawmakers must share blame for troubled program

Eric Hoppel, WMHT

Opponents to incumbent Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 governor’s race are continuing to weigh in on the corruption convictions of the former head of Cuomo’s economic development programs.

Stephanie Miner, an independent candidate for governor and the former Syracuse mayor, said it’s not just Cuomo and his administration who are to blame.

Miner was once the co-leader of the state Democratic Party under Cuomo. They have long since parted ways, and she’s now collecting petitions to be on the November ballot under a new group, the Serve America Movement, formed by former Democrats and Republicans.

On July 12, a federal jury convicted former SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros — the former head of Cuomo’s upstate economic development ventures — on bid-rigging charges. Three upstate developers also were convicted.

Miner, in an interview with public radio, said state legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, often stood by Cuomo when he announced the economic development projects that she said have been a "complete failure."

“Clearly, Andrew Cuomo, this is his signature economic development program,” Miner said. “But if you look at the groundbreakings and the fake job announcements, you will see that both Republicans and Democrats alike joined in, in this celebration of what thoughtful people knew was flawed public policy.”

Miner said the program included many “wasted opportunities.” She cited empty buildings, like a $15 million film hub near Syracuse that was supposed to create 500 permanent and temporary jobs, and the underperforming Solar City plant in Buffalo.

Miner said meanwhile, many of the state’s roads, bridges and transit systems are crumbling and need to be rebuilt.

“I think you have to eliminate all of these economic development programs and bureaucracy, and take that money and invest it into infrastructure,” said Miner, who added that also includes expanded access to high-speed broadband.

The former two-term mayor of Syracuse has chosen as her running mate Michael Volpe, who is the mayor of Pelham in Westchester County and a registered Republican. Miner said Volpe, like her, takes a practical approach to politics.

“As mayors, we’re not ideologues,” Miner said. “Both Michael and I agree that Albany needs to be completely disrupted.”

Miner is not the only candidate running for governor to call for an end to the existing economic development programs.

Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon and Republican candidate for governor Marc Molinaro also want to overhaul Cuomo’s economic development programs. They are calling for further investigations, both saying they would revive a corruption commission under the powers of the state’s Moreland Act. Cuomo disbanded a similar commission.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.