Cuomo, his party loyalists, and the streamlining of a Democratic meeting

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Charlie King and Peter Stein. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived to what the New York Times described as "a hero's welcome" and left before the shouting and gavel-pounding brought an end to the state Democratic Party's fall meeting in Albany.

Coming off a handful of victories in contested local elections around the state, Cuomo said the results affirmed the Democrats' positive view of the role of government.

"They had an argument that basically says, 'whatever the problem, it's caused by government,'" Cuomo said, sounding a lot like his father used to.

But "we argue the exact opposite. That government is posibility. Why? Because government is us, and we believe in us," he said, waving his right hand in a circle in front of the roomful of about 200 party members.

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Cuomo ended his 14-minute speech with more sweeping rhetoric.

"There is nothing we can't do, and we believe in 'us,'" he said. "We're going to think big and we're going to act big."

Cuomo's speech did not address two topics dividing the party and administration he leads: hydraulic fracturing and taxes on the rich. Resolutions on each subject were introduced by members of the state party after Cuomo left the meeting (one was in favor of a ban on fracking, which Cuomo opposes, and the other was in favor of extending the millionaire's tax, which Cuomo opposes). But both measures were tabled, amid howls of protest from the dissenters.

The closest Cuomo came to acknowledging either issue was when he said at the end of his speech that, "We're going to come up with a plan and I can tell you this: the plan is going to be fair to all New Yorkers."

Then, punctuating the air with his right hand, he said, "The plan is going to unite this state and not divide this state. I understand the climate out there. But I'm not going to allow people to use the anxiety and to use the fear and use the frustration to pull us apart."

Cuomo said he won't let those unnamed people separate "upstate from downstate, or white from black, or rich from poor. That's not going to happen. We are New Yorkers and we are one."

His last few lines were swallowed up by the applause in the room. One person let out a loud, approving whistle. After his speech, Cuomo slipped out the back of the hotel and into a black S.U.V. where, according to a reporter there, the governor ignored a question shouted to him.

The first of those two controversial resolutions, calling for  called for a ban on hydraullic fracturing "in New York State, was tabled at the suggestion of Michael Reich, the executive secretary of the Queens County Democratic Party, who sat in the front row of the room where the meeting was held.

The second resolution, calling for the "permanent continuation" of the millionaire's tax "but only on incomes in excess of $1 million," was tabled at the suggestion of John Dorsa, a state committee member who is also from Queens and was seated next to Reich.

Both motions to table passed after the state party chairman, Jay Jacobs, said a majority of party members had raised hands in support. Each time, supporters of the resolution yelled their displeasure and Jacobs was reduced to using the gavel in order to regain decorum.

In a brief interview after the meeting, Dorsa said he wanted more time to consider the tax policies in the resolution, and quickly left without elaborating. Reich also left shortly after the meeting.

"The process worked the way it's supposed to work," said the state party's executive director, Charlie King, a longtime Cuomo ally. "Here we had a majority of people saying that this was not the time to discuss those issues so I think we have to respect those issues."

Jacobs told reporters, "From where I'm standing at the chairman's table, it wasn't a close vote."

It wasn't exactly unexpected.

Cuomo's speech and the vote on the resolutions took place on the second day of the state party's meeting. On the first day, there had been meeting of the Reform Caucus, where many of the members expressed support for the fracking and taxing resolutions.

King attended the meeting and said there were problems with the timing of the resolutions.

"I challenge all of us to be a little bit more serious going forward," said King, standing in the front of the small but packed room. "If there are issues we care deeply in, let's get them out, and up, and make the resolution" in time for the next meeting on May 24. "One of the problems with tomorrow's meeting, for example, is that there's a lot of people who feel very passionately this issue won't be here."

One woman among the caucus members said the notion that party leaders were unaware that fracking was an issue that members wanted to discuss was not believable.

King "respectfully" shot back that he told the group at an earlier state party meeting "hydrofracking was an issue and what we should do is having people discuss it before this meeting. Nobody took me up on that offer to say 'let's do that.' I said it time and again."

One woman who said she's been member of the executive committee "for over a year" said, "I haven't been asked to a meeting where we discuss anything of substance."

King said he'd work toward making those conversations happen, but did not offer any specific plans.

The chairman of the Reform Caucus, Peter Stein of Ithaca, said, "I'd love that. We've talked about that before. It's never happened."

After the state party meeting ended, one New York City-based committee member who sits on the Reform Caucus expressed his displeasure and cursed, as Jacobs, the chairman, exited the hotel.

With a few people looking on, Jacobs smiled painfully, suggested they continue talking later, and left.