No one will ever accuse Governor Andrew Cuomo of being shy when it comes to grabbing whatever power is lying around so he can continue his micromanagement of state government. In his budget proposal for the upcoming year, he has proposed legislation that he laughingly calls a return of the New York Racing Association to private control. What it really does, however, is increase his control over NYRA.
When he seized control over NYRA almost five years ago, he and the Legislature created a “Reorganization” Board of Directors in which 12 of the 17 members would be appointed by the state. Cuomo had 8 of those 12 appointments.
Under his budget proposal, Cuomo would directly appoint four members of what would become a 15-member board. Each chamber of the Legislature would appoint one member. The CEO of NYRA – to be appointed by Cuomo – would be on the Board. The remaining eight members would be selected by the current Executive Committee of NYRA.
Who is on the Executive Committee? In what must be a remarkable coincidence, four of the six members are Cuomo loyalists. Three of the members are direct Cuomo appointees. A fourth, Michael Del Giudice, who serves as the acting Chair of the Board, has said that “Andrew is like a younger brother to me.”
So there you have it. Cuomo will go from appointing 8 members of a 17-member board to controlling 13 members of a new 15-member board.
Perhaps you think that Andrew Cuomo, who has never displayed any interest or knowledge of racing, should continue to run what should be a premier jurisdiction for top-quality racing. Or you think that his acolytes on the current NYRA Board are going to be the first Cuomo loyalists in his six-year tenure to exhibit independent judgment on any matter that has not been pre-approved by the Governor’s office.
But you also may think that New York can do much better than allow campaign contributors and hacks to call the shots for the future of New York racing.
Early in Cuomo’s tenure he was faced with another racing crisis. There was a spike in racing fatalities at Aqueduct. That resulted in an independent and widely-respected Task Force that studied the situation. Their recommendations ended up not only improving the situation in New York, but became a national model for improving the safety of racing.
He could do something similar here, and once again put New York in the forefront of the sport.