Carey: Democrats', New York's troubles not over yet
"The Democratic Party," says New York Gov. Hugh L. Carey, "is in a supine position." "The Republican National Committee is off and running," he says. "On reapportionment, they are way ahead. On funding through the political action committees, they are way ahead. I don't see anything happening to change this. I see a lot of people in the Democratic Party arguing about counterbudgets, but that doesn't win elections."
This is the assessment of one of the nation's leading Democratic governors, who is frequently projected into a larger national political role by commentators and analysts. Indeed, Mr. Carey reportedly was sought as a potential running mate last year by independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson. But the three-term governor chose to remain a loyal Democrat and, despite the gloomy views, he sees several appealing Democrats coming to prominence. Among them: US Sen. Joseph R. Biden of Delaware; US Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey; and Gov. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
In a far-reaching interview with this newspaper here recently, Carey made these other points:
* New York City's fiscal crisis is far from over.
* "All the components are there" for ghetto unrest this summer -- with fewer police to cope with it.
* The drive for casino gambling in New York State is "moribund" -- based on growing opposition even from the major hotel chains.
* The Reagan administration's proposed cutbacks in mass transit aid are a critical blow to the state's major cities. New York City alone urgently needs a
* He intends to intensify the state's fight against organized crime -- especially at airports, where it is driving away business, and in labor unions.
* He made it plain that he fully intends to run for reelection next year -- although if the Republicans put up US Rep. Jack Kemp, Carey may have the fight of his political life.
The New York City fiscal crisis will not be solved, the governor forecast, until "the underlying economy" is bolstered. This means, he continued, radically reducing minority unemployment, which is his view leads to greater crime, increased expenditures, and reduced revenues. (Other high-ranking state officials also have told the Monitor that there is serious doubt whether the city can contain its expenses this year as projected in its most recent financial plan.)
Carey doubted whether the city could balance its budget next year either because of its recent sharp decline in tourism, traceable largely to the stronger position of the US dollar abroad, in the view of some economists.
The governor said the problem of joblessness also must be addressed if New York is to avert future racial unrest. He was careful not to predict any unrest "because this tends to be self-fulfilling . . . but all the components are there."
Although he expressed grave concern that the Reagan administration's proposed cutbacks in social services and CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) jobs will aggravate slum problems, he remains optimistic that a private-sector task force, headed by retired banker David Rockefeller, will be able to provide 12,000 jobs for city youths this summer.
Carey said efforts for casino gambling here will not pay off. "The churches, the moralists, even the strong hotel chains which were pushing it -- seeing the experience in Atlantic City -- are saying, 'No, not yet,'" he said. "We have a lot of gaming in New York already -- the world's racing capital, a lottery. If you want to wager in New York, there are all kinds of ways you can do it. So we don't need casino gambling. I'm concerned about crime in New York as it is."
(A recent report released by state Attorney General Robert Abrams concluded that crime, including organized crime, was a major problem for Atlantic City, and one that the State of New York was unprepared to handle properly.)
Even so, the state has reinforced its commitment to fighting organized crime, most importantly through the attorney general's organized crime task force. One major focus of it work, the governor said, will be the state's major airports.
"People who ship high-cost, high-value goods are going elsewhere because of the pilferage," he added. A prime target of this airport probe, he pledged, will be the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and its local unions, whose members load and unload cargo.
Turning to mass transit, Carey said: "The cut in . . . aid has the immediate effect of tacking a nickle more onto the subway fare. [Actually, the fare soon will be raised by more than 5 cents]. Again, it will fall on those least able to afford it: the transit rider who is normally from a lower- or middle-income group."
In testimony before the House Budget Committee earlier this year, Carey said: "The elimination of [federal] mass transit operating subsidies and the severe curtailment of mass transit capital funding will most severely hurt the large Northeastern and Midwestern cities most dependent upon transit services."
The governor, along with Mayor Edward I. Koch (D) of New York City, has helped assemble a transit panel of leading New Yorkers to help address the "extraordinary financial and management problems" of mass transit. Yet in its first report, issued May 28, the panel failed to provide the proposed solutions Carey had promised.
Meanwhile, Carey revealed, the Reagan administration may not fund "Westway," the controveral $1.5 billion highway proposal for Manhattan, "since the governor and the mayor [Koch] are in continuing controversy." Koch opposes it.
But, said the governor, "Mayor Koch is going to have a tough time opposing it when we hand him a check for $100 million or $125 million for the right-of-way."
The mayor supports a scaled-down version of Westway that, in his view, would serve a dual purpose of cutting back on traffic to Manhattan and helping preserve the integrity of Manhattan's West Side, bordering the Hudson River.
The governor believes Westway, which also would create more than 80 acres of parkland, would help unsnarl midtown traffic, pave the way for thousands of new jobs in the construction industry and on a permanent basis when oil firms expand or new ones locate here as a result of the highway.
Carey also believes Westway has to be built because, in terms of minority jobs, it represents "the strongest affirmative action program in the country. So Harlem people should be screaming for Westway." Yet the highway proposal remains in "danger" of losing its already committed federal money unless the Koch, who holds key votes on the city board that must approve Westway, supports it, the governor warned.
The White House recently reaffirmed that federal money of Westway construction is still available -- and it was up to the state if it wanted to use it for mass transit instead. Almost simultanously, however, a pro- Westway group, New York Citizens for Balanced Transportation, reported that Koch must come aroud to supporting the highway project before Oct. 1 or the federal funds might cease to be available.
In other matters, Carey said the state's own financial picture, despite greater bipartisan haggling than usual in the Legislature over the budget "is secure." But he claimed adverse winds from Washington "can hurt us, all right." President Reagan's economic recovery plan, the governor said, will fuel inflation rather than fight it.
One effect of the Reagan cuts would be the delay -- or perhaps even abandonment -- of the governor's plan for state takeover of New York City's medicaid costs, a step that might have saved the city more than a half-million dollars a year, by some estimates.
"If the Reagan administration persists on their course, we'll have the small satisfaction of seeing it fall," he said. "But if it fails, you'll be hurt worse. So you really want them to succeed."
Amid speculation about his own political future, the governor said he had only been "kidding" when he said he looked on the US Senate as a place "for pleasant retirement" after having been governor for 16 years. "I have," he said , "no desire to go to the US Senate."
Congressman Kemp, it has been hinted, may seek the governorship in 1982, especially if he thinks he could command higher visibility there than he can in Washington. He is believed to harbor presidential ambitions.