Even the state’s chief executive plays hooky sometimes.
During a stop in Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened with an amusing admission: He once played hooky during budget negotiations. And he got busted.
Cuomo told the tale at the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s holiday party on Dec. 15, where he was introduced by Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau. (Rabideau’s introduction, which came a few days after the council was awarded $81.3 million in state tax breaks and incentives, went like this: “Ladies and gentleman, Santa is in the house!”)
Here’s how Cuomo told the story: His daughters were off from school in mid-March 2011 and wanted to go skiing. Perhaps optimistically, Cuomo had expected the state’s budget negotiations to be finished by then, ahead of the March 31 deadline for setting a spending plan. They weren’t.
“So I say to the (legislative) leaders, ‘Let me go think about some of the things we’re talking about,'” Cuomo said. “And I go grab my girls, throw them in the car, throw on a big pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap. I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize myself.”
So Cuomo dropped two of his daughters off at Whiteface Mountain and went to a sporting goods store in Saranac Lake with his third. Before he headed back to the mountain, he stopped at a pizza shop for a slice. That’s when he spotted Rabideau in the street.
“But I have these big sunglasses and this baseball hat and this old jacket, and I’m preeeety sure he didn’t recognize me,” Cuomo said. “And then even if he recognized me, I’m preeeeeety sure that he wouldn’t out me. Because I’m playing hooky from the budget negotiations and nobody knows I’m here. They think I’m pondering great budget options.”
From there, he headed to a nearby gas station, where he was greeted by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, which snapped a photo of him pumping gas while wearing the large sunglasses that were supposed to keep him incognito.
“Right behind me, here comes the Adirondack Daily Enterprise with a camera, filming me pumping gas,” Cuomo said. “Plus I’ve got this stupid hat on and these big sunglasses. I think it was Mayor Clyde Rabideau who dropped a dime on me. But we move on.”
Rabideau was more than happy to tell his side of the story this morning. (“Thank you!” he exclaimed thrice when a reporter inquired by phone, declaring it the second-best Christmas present, aside from the regional council awards.)
Saranac Lake is a small village, so “whenever we see two big, black SUVs in town, we know something’s up,” said Rabideau, who said Cuomo parked just outside of the newspaper’s Main Street offices before heading to the pizza shop, Little Italy.
The mayor said he saw Cuomo exiting the pizzeria — sunglasses obscuring his face — and wasn’t sure if it was the governor.
“So what am I supposed to do? Say ‘Hey governor! Are you the governor?'” Rabideau said. “So I go ‘A-C!,’ and he stopped and I knew it was him and we had a nice little chit-chat. Meanwhile, the editor and the reporter are going down Main Street looking for the two black SUVs. Lo and behold, there they are pulling out of Little Italy.”
The mayor was adamant. “Rabideau was not the one who dropped the dime,” Rabideau said. “I knew he thought it was me for the last two years.”
Cuomo’s office posted video of his Dec. 15 remarks on its Livestream page last week. You can watch it below. (The story starts around the 5:45 mark.)