Governor Andrew Cuomo, if anything, knows how to wield power.
And in the last several days, the Democratic governor has sought ways of forcing local governments to act on both the coronavirus pandemic and overhauling police departments, leveraging what influence the state has over municipalities to act on the major issues of the day or risk the consequences.
For police reform, Cuomo is ordering local governments and law enforcement agencies to develop a wide-ranging set of plans for reform its policies, anything that can range from cutting budgets to communitiy policing in order to address bias. The move comes amid calls to "defund" police departments by finding ways of redirecting social services to areas in which law enforcement has increasingly responded to over the years.
Cuomo is making state aid contingent on the development of these plans, which must be in place by April 1 of next year, the start of the state's fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the governor on Sunday threatened to rollback the economic reopening in regions of New York if local governents do not enforce social distancing and personal protection equipment guidelines for businesses. Cuomo's declaration came after videos posted online of St. Mark's Place in New York City showing a lack of social distancing or mask wearing among bar patrons.
In both instances, Cuomo is reminding implicitly and explicitly that local governments — big and small — are a creature of the state.
It has been a bruising year for municipalities, many of which are facing deep budget deficits due to shriveled tax revenue as a result of the economic crisis created by the pandemic.
Local governments have chafed at this top-down approach. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro on Saturday tweeted his frustration when Cuomo said it would be up to local officials to explain to their residents why the reopening was being scaled back if infections rise.
"The state controls the data," wrote Molinaro, the governor's 2018 Republican opponent who has at times been complimentary of Cuomo's pandemic response. "The state controls the details. The state controls the decisions... but, if things go bad it’s on us. Got it."
But much of Cuomo's efforts appear aimed even further south: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The mayor is term-limited in 2021, making a police reform plan for the NYPD likely one of the final official acts for him in office next year. The timeline also ensures police reform will be a major topic for the Democratic primary to replace him.
Cuomo pointed to a different big-city New York mayor for praise in his response: Buffalo's Byron Brown.
Buffalo, too, has been convulsed by the protests and unrest, and the national attention of a 75-year-old protester injured when he was pushed by police.
"People are standing up and saying enough is enough now. Great, seize the moment and make the change. But literally redesign the police department community by community," Cuom said in an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC. "Because the New York City police department is one type of police department. Suffolk County will have other issues. Erie County will have other issues. Buffalo, Mayor Brown, God bless him, he'll have other issues to address. But make them do it now while we have the moment and we have the energy. And that's how change comes."