2007 was somewhat less dramatic for statewide news than last year — but it wasn’t a key election year, and maybe that has something to do with it. There were also (mercifully) no major natural disasters, and no Bucky Phillips. Some of last year’s issues (ie NYRI, the terrible upstate economy and population loss) dragged on into 2007 and didn’t come to head this year either, so we’ll be seeing more of them in 2008 I’m sure. Here are my picks for the top NYS stories of 2007…
Eliot Spitzer’s terrible, horrible, very bad first year. (I’m selecting this one as a story in itself, despite it being a backdrop for several of my other picks!) He can only go up from here. Unless it gets worse.
Choppergate. Or whatever you want to call it. I personally found this story an embarrassment and kind of a bore, except for the shock value of how it played against the law and order image Spitzer ran on. The Bruno quotes weren’t even very amusing. The majority of New Yorkers still wanted Spitzer to testify in some sort of inquiry, and the majority of New Yorkers probably still think Bruno is jailable. A personal memory: Seeing “Eliot Spitzer” (or one of his staffers) posting “in person” on Daily Kos, looking for some easy love from national Dems who didn’t know what was going on in New York politics at the moment, and watching him (or “him”) getting slammed six ways from Sunday in real-time by actual New York Dems who were pissed off at him and wanted answers. (Look, he just wants to be loved! Is that so wrong?)
The immigrant driver licensing controversy. Aside from being a bad issue for Spitzer to press this year, more than anything else it showed what a culturally and economically divided state we live in. To many in the NYC metro area this issue was a no-brainer; but many upstaters saw it differently, even without the intrusive meddling of Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly. We had passionate stands by the odd county clerk, but we never really got a good statewide discussion about immigration out of it — save for some good old blog threads. But when was the last time we had a good statewide discussion about anything?
February Lake Effect Event. Ten days that shook the world. Okay, mostly just Oswego County. But round-the-clock coverage on the Weather Channel, that’s not too shabby. In any other part of the country, this would have been considered a natural disaster, but not here; instead, it’s a bit of a joke. (“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?”) One for the ages.
Hillary, running for president. Hardly a “story” in an earthshaking news sense (it’s not like anyone thought she ran for senator here because she really, really liked us), but as far as the rest of America is concerned, it’s really the only New York story of note. (I suppose I could throw Rudy Giuliani into this item as well, but why bother? I think you can stick a fork in him.) If I sound really blase about this, it’s because I am: regardless of her New York connection, New York voters will still have no real influence in choosing the president. And that’s not going to change any time soon.
Transportation fee hikes, upstate and downstate. This is one New York story I admit to not following very closely: the twin scourges of Thruway toll hikes and MTA fare hikes. I have a feeling that the Thruway issue in particular will come more to the fore as the NYC trash-trucks-in-the-Finger-Lakes issue gets more media coverage next year.
The debut of Project Sunlight. As long as we’re talking disinfectant — personally, I think they should have called it Project Raid (as in Raid, the insecticide, as opposed to Sunlight, the dishwasher detergent) but it’s all good. (My review of the initial offering of Project Sunlight is here.)
Canadian invasion. The falling dollar brought hordes of Canadian shoppers to Syracuse and other parts of Central and Western NY, eager to spend their suddenly mighty loonies. (NYC received a European invasion of shoppers for the same reason.)
Huge Adirondack land purchase by the Nature Conservancy. 161,000 acres of former logging land that will probably, in the end, wind up half owned by the state and half privately owned. It’s not all “former” logging land — for the time being, a good deal of logging will continue. See this NYT story for more.
Drought in the North Country and Utica-Rome area. Not a catastrophic dry spell, but it threatened to be for some, and was just surreal, considering the massive flooding along the Mohawk just last year. It just goes to show that we can never be smug about feeling relatively safe from climate change and water management issues that other parts of the country are grappling with.
Like I said… not a dramatic year, and way too dominated by the very worst that Albany has to offer. Next year promises to be infinitely more exciting, with possibly a real contest for control of the state Senate, the presidential election (New York will undoubtedly be trotted out as an exhibit in any pro- or anti-Hillary commercials) — and who knows what a faltering economy will make New Yorkers do and say to each other? When the going gets tough, the truth comes out. I can’t wait.