After manhandling local political savant Herman Schatz, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s advance people settled down long enough to let the gov speak and to allow hydrofracking protesters’ voices to be heard on the Fair’s opening day. Only after Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney calmed the waters on Thursday, Aug. 23, by leading Cuomo over to Schatz did Governor’s Day proceed somewhat on script. Until the protesters showed up.
Perhaps Cuomo was distracted by the growing mass of anti-hydrofracking folk but every politician visiting Syracuse knows enough to say hello to the man who can recite their birth dates and other vital statistics. After all, Hillary Clinton warmly embraced Schatz every time she came to the Fair.
Once the ribbon was cut and the Fair declared officially open, Cuomo and two of his three daughters took a brief stroll through the State Troopers’ area, toward the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que/Gianelli stand for the requisite sausage sandwich, and then trooped into the Dairy Building for a gander at the butter sculpture. Then they made their way back to the Empire Room for questions from the press.
All the while, a respectful but rowdy group of fracking protesters followed the entourage, chanting “I Love New York/ Don’t Frack New York” and holding a variety of creative signs. A few individuals broke into the tight circle of handlers and troopers to speak directly to the governor, who seemed to listen. One was Nedra Harvey of Rochester, representing R-Cause—Rochesterians Concerned About Unsafe Shale Gas Extraction.
While Cuomo put some Gianelli in his belly, Harvey reported what she had told him. “We all know he’s done a great deal of good for many people,” Harvey said, “and I told him that I appreciate all he has done and is trying to do for New York state but that it will all be negated if fracking is allowed.”
During his go-round with the press, reporters asked Cuomo his reaction to the protesters. “When you have a controversial issue, by definition you have strong feelings on both sides, and that’s the case with the fracking issue,” he said. “We have a lot of emotion on the issue, but from the beginning my point has been, let’s put the emotion aside and gather more information, and let’s make the decision based on the science, not the emotion.”
Part of that information-gathering process is occurring now within the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “The DEC is going through an exhaustive scientific review and will make the decision based on the science and the facts, not the emotions,” he continued. “I told them ‘make the decision when you are ready,’ so there is no hard timetable.”
Meanwhile, both sides will no doubt continue the debate, but not in so public and crowded a forum as the New York State Fair.