Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino has been traveling the state criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attempts to invest money in parts of New York to spur economic development. During a recent interview with Utica radio station WIBX, Astorino called the Mohawk Valley's $1.5 billion Nano Utica project "smoke and mirrors." Astorino also said the Mohawk Valley is not really experiencing an economic recovery.
Oneida County executive Anthony Picente says Astorino doesn't understand the region and that Nano Utica is good for the region's economy.
"His comments were very disturbing and something I thought should not have been brought into the political realm," Picente said. "He either didn't do his homework, and having only been through here a few times, I thought it wasn't the way to approach this."
Picente says the county has worked hard with Cuomo to strengthen the area economically, and says Astorino should not come in and tell the county what it's doing wrong without all of the information.
"I've known Rob, and I thought he was better than that in that regard, to understand as a county executive, in particular," Picente said. "I mean Rob is someone who represents Westchester County. It's not different than me going down there and talking about Westchester today, when I know very little about Westchester County, in terms of what their development projects are. But if I was running for governor, I'd probably do a better job... of knowing what it was."
Picente says Oneida County has worked very closely with the state to try to improve its local economy, including reaching last year's settlement with the Oneida Indian Nation which brings casino gambling revenue to the county.
During a second interview today with the station, Astorino clarified his remarks. He said he wants Nano Utica and projects like it to succeed in New York, but not because the state is throwing money at them. Astorino has previously said that businesses would be better helped if the state overhauled its tax code.