“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” — Satchel Paige
Andrew Cuomo never met a saber he didn’t want to rattle.
You are forgiven if you were watching baseball last week and failed to notice that the governor fast-tracked three appointments through the State Senate to a body known as the New York State Financial Control Board.
An obscure living governmental artifact now, the board was once powerful, overseeing New York City’s finances from 1975 to 1986 because a generation of mayors in City Hall kept passing the buck to the next guy — until there were no more bucks to pass.
But rather than go out of business when the city was back in business, the board continues to exist and even had its life extended by the state legislature earlier this century. A doomsday machine of sorts, the board meets at least once a year to basically agree that the city’s finances aren’t in disrepair and then gavels out. The governor and the mayor are on the board along with the city and state comptrollers and three appointees of the governor.
If you’re brilliant at math, you may have just figured out that the governor controls four of the board’s seven votes. The governor really seems to have figured out that math out last week and is now making sure that he controls the Control Board.
NY1’s Zack Fink, who broke this story, asked the governor about the appointments on Monday and the governor noted that the city is “going to require more scrutiny, more analysis than it has in years. And putting the right people on the financial control board is now vitally important.”
Those people include three Cuomo team players: former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and the governor’s former secretary, Steve Cohen.
In his “Mondays with the Mayor” interview last night with Bobby Cuza, Mayor de Blasio tried to downplay Cuomo’s power play.
“I think we shouldn't misunderstand the Financial Control Board. Its role is very different today than way back when in some very, very bad times during the 70’s and 80’s,” he said.
It’s all reminiscent of Cuomo clearing his throat when looting hit New York City in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Unprompted, Cuomo reminded the press corps that there’s a complicated process for the governor to remove the mayor — but that he’d never use it. Wink wink.
So whatever happens next month when the board meets next month on a Zoom call, don’t expect them just to quickly gavel out. How can Andrew Cuomo not love a board with “control” in its name?