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Politics
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early in his term that he'd be creating a set of "regional economic councils" to build plans for funding economic development across New York, from the ground up.In the summer of 2011 he finally announced some of the details of the program, to be led by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. The ten councils each have dozens of members, and are charged with gathering input from the public and business leaders, and creating a plan by November 14. Those plans will be pitted against each other for a pot of $1 billion in grants, incentives, and tax relief from various state agencies. The winners will get more funding, the losers will get less.But other details - like whether funding will be available past the initial term, and who will serve on the board that decides who wins and who loses - have not been released.The Innovation Trail is looking for your feedback about what your regional economic priorities are, and what you want your community to look like once the councils have completed their task.

Months later, economic councils still "a few weeks away"

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Zack Seward
/
WXXI
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy speaking at an event in April. At the time, he said the state's new regional economic councils would be announced in the next "two to three weeks."

The check is in the mail.

That seems to be the word from the Cuomo administration on its regional economic councils.

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy sat down with the editorial board of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Duffy used the meeting with his hometown paper to highlight some of the major victories the Cuomo team has secured in its first six months in office. (Cuomo himself was in the Rochester area on Wednesday for one of the several ceremonial signings of the state's newly adopted property tax cap.)

But as the D&C's Jill Terreri reports, Duffy also touched on one major initiative that remains unrealized:

While the Cuomo administration moved decisively on passing a property-tax cap, legalizing gay marriage and changing the state's ethics rules, economic development councils — a primary responsibility for Duffy — have not been rolled out yet. Duffy attributed the delay to the administration's decision not to take resources away from legislative priorities during the last six months.

Duffy tells the D&C that the 10 regional councils are "expected to be announced in the next few weeks." Problem is, that's the same thing we've been hearing from Duffy since April.

Then

"I hope that as the weeks and months go on, you get involved with these councils," Duffy told local business leaders on April 13, at an announcement at the Center of Excellence formerly known as Infotonics.

"The councils will be announced probably in the next two to three weeks," Duffy added. "The governor will make an announcement and then we'll be on the road. We'll be on the road to all 10 regions."

Now

Twelve weeks later, that road trip is still in the works.

Duffy told WXXI on Wednesday that the councils were shifted to the back burner as the Cuomo administration tackled its top priorities.

"Everything was focused on the legislative session," said Duffy. "The councils are coming up. They will be starting very soon."

Brian Sampson, executive director of business advocacy group Unshackle Upstate, says he's not bothered by the delay.

"Of course I think we'd all like to see them sooner rather than later," says Sampson. "But since this is new, and it's a different approach for the state of New York, let's make sure that we have the right process in place when you do roll them out."

Despite the lack of firm details at this point, Sampson is bullish on the potential of the regional councils.

"It is taking the decision making out of Albany and out of New York City and putting it in the hands of the locals - who certainly understand their markets much better than some other people," Sampson says. "They know where the greatest opportunity is."

While Duffy offered a few new details on his latest visit to Rochester (he says Rochester's council will meet on a state university campus, for example), he offered more substance about the councils in a recent interview with Caryn McBride at White Plains' Westfair Online.

Details on when the councils might be announced, however, remained fuzzy.

Posted on July 1, the Westfair article reported that "business people and industry observers have been eagerly awaiting details, which the governor was expected to announce this week."

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