Party politics, as we've seen far too often in recent years, too often reduces the voices of elected representatives to almost nothing when it comes to state issues.
Democrats almost always go along with their party's leader in state government, currently Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Republicans rarely question the decisions of their leader in the Capitol, which has been state Sen. Dean Skelos the past several years.
So when a prominent elected official actually shows the courage to publicly challenge the policies of a state government leader within his or her own party, it's a big deal.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner did just that with her extraordinary opinion column published in the New York Times urging the rejection of Cuomo's budget proposal because it fails to adequately address the financial crisis hitting the state's municipalities.
Miner was right on point calling for the governor and other state leaders to work pro-actively with mayors, county executives and other officials who must grapple with heavy state-mandated costs such as pension obligations while also abiding by the new state-imposed property tax cap.
The Cuomo administration pretty much gave the standard response to anyone who dares question the governor -- a dismissive remark that deflects the substance of the issue.
"Syracuse wants somebody else to solve that problem," Cuomo aide Howard Glaser told an Albany radio station. "If you're unwilling or unable to solve a problem in fiscal management in a city, there's a mechanism for that: You ask the Legislature to create a financial control board, and the financial control board will solve the problem for you."
He also tried to rewrite Miner's appeal, saying she was asking the state to "just give me more money to solve my financial problem that my city created."
The governor must do better than that. This is not a Syracuse problem. This is a problem already causing substantial challenges to municipalities all over this state, and Cuomo cannot afford to ignore it or pretend the state had no role in creating the situation.
"It's obviously provocative, if not game changing," said E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute said of Miner's column. "To have a mayor who is that prominent with that political role to make those points -- it makes it harder to avoid addressing those points."
We agree. But it's going to take many more elected officials -- especially state legislators -- to stand up and demand accountability in order to move this administration to act how it should.
-- The Auburn Citizen