It’s New York City in 1971. It’s nighttime - about 40 minutes before the Ali/Frazier fight. You’re walking into Madison Square Garden, and it looks like something out of a movie. All you could see outside for blocks are lines of expensive cars – Ferraris, Benzes, BMWs, and Bentleys. Your eyes behold the most exquisite looking people rocking tuxedoes, silk night gowns, Chanel purses, chinchilla coats/hats, fur coats, silky smooth suits of all styles, and colors.
That’s almost what the New York State (NYS) State of the State Address (SOS) is like. The SOS is coming up real soon - this Wednesday (tomorrow January 9th) in fact. And, it's a big deal.
Once you reach the top, the only place left to go is down. This is the precarious position NYS governor Andrew Cuomo finds himself in. Based on what he has to say in this 30, or so minute speech - the governor will either buy time to keep his political career going, or create new hordes of enemies that would work to knock him off the wall like Humpty Dumpty.
It's a new year with resolutions, and new perspectives, but old habits die hard. The SOS has traditionally been the forum where NYS governors past (if even only for lip service) lay out, and signal important statewide initiatives for the coming year.
People, officials, and organizations that stand on differing sides of progressive issues, go to the SOS every year. Many go to see if their lobbying has paid off. They listen for buzz words in the governor's speech, or for straight up, direct references to their issue. Others like the anti-fracking movement aren't taking any chances, and they go to make some peaceful noise.
Before my baptism into activism/organizing, I used to think that the New York SOS was just another show. It is, but annually it's one of the most prolific shows in the month of January in NYS. It’s going to be like the 1971 Frazier vs. Ali fight at Madison Square Garden. Everyone’s going to be in the house. Education, climate change, weatherization, energy efficiency, environmentalists, arts groups, community based groups, big business, the minimum wage, unions, transportation you name it – the pro, and con of every issue will be present. And, just like Frank Lucas in 1971, the most important or well-connected people (issues) will have seats closer to the ring.
The during, and the aftermath of what happens at the SOS for cities like Buffalo is important. With the decline of industry, and less and less private investment coming into the region, the loss (or gain) of any government funding, or support has become more important. In the face of a changing economic, and physical climate regular working New Yorkers need all the support they can get.
On Wednesday some of us will have ring side seats while many others of us will be lucky to catch the fight on pay per view. Either way, we’ll be listening, waiting, or watching to see what the Governor has to say.