Gov. Cuomo should let people return to work

A sign stating that the store is closed is taped to the glass door of TJ Maxx in Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — I just got back from dinner at a friend’s house in these times of no restaurants and limited social interaction.

You may remember me. I used to be mayor of Watertown and now do talk shows and, until recently, operated the Pearl Street Pub.

For 35 years, I have owned the pub. It’s been a journey with ups and downs.

But until March 16, it was a good run. I have been pleased as we had a great staff, and those people and customers are really family to me.

My life, like many of late, went asunder. The daily routine, the challenge, the relationships are suddenly gone as this social place is now entered upon threat of fines, revocation and, for all I know, imprisonment. A local restaurant owner recently caught on camera a woman peeking in his business’s windows with a camera in what is presumed an effort to ensure no commerce occurred there.

Two friends in the business have boarded up to protect their property until they can reopen. Countless people I know are unemployed both in and out of the industry. A pall is over all local businesses with layoffs, closures, broken dreams and uncertain futures.

The notion of freedom is losing out to what is to some martial law dressed up as “a pause for New York.” Albany had to be consulted to find out if my pet can be groomed. And it’s now allowed, with stipulations and protocols.

The effects are up and down the supply chain and others are affected. Even coin-operated car washes are shut down. Although to keep a grumbling populace subdued, liquor stores were deemed “essential” businesses to remain open.

It’s all the result of a rat-a-tat-tat of rules from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is suddenly a much-praised national figure based on his daily press briefings. He is a smart, shrewd man who speaks in the tradition of his father. He is a man who has a lot on his plate but also has adopted the easy plank of saying all New York state residents must bear the same burden resulting from COVID-19.

The novel coronavirus poses challenges but also questions. We annually struggle with seasonal flu that kills tens of thousands, and these pandemics have drifted through before.

Now we have a scoreboard of death and infection on cable news all day, and it is disturbing. But we don’t do the same for every other malady.

When you look at the cases, you will learn that more than 90 percent of New York’s positives are in New York City, Long Island and the three counties north of the city. Cases are scattered along the Thruway, and much of New York’s rural areas are scarcely affected.

To their credit, local health departments are on it, and sensible people have tightened up protocols on hygiene and that new term: social distancing. It would be a teachable moment, but alas the schools are closed as well.

The governor unleashed a bludgeon, closing businesses and creating the possibility of 30 percent unemployment and a destroyed summer tourism season. He offers no finality but has said this could last up to eight months. Then he concedes the situation is economically “unsustainable.”

The numbers tell us the mortality rate for COVID-19 is low and centers on the elderly and vulnerable. They need to be protected, but decimating the economy is not a fair trade.

Anyone who believes government as usual can plod on under these circumstances is mistaken. With the second quarter of this year wiped out, it will take more than closing a pool in this city to balance things out.

This whole matter is also, as is much these days, highly political with this for some a final chance to ditch President Donald Trump or put in place a set of legislative priorities on a range of issues.

The attempted larding up of the stimulus bill with things like windmill tax credits, labor union protections and Green New Deal provisions says volumes.

Amidst the promise of $1,000 checks, I have heard little discussion of the long list of the social problems that poverty, despair and anxiety can cause. Let me mention the pending rash of suicides, domestic violence, substance abuse and possible civil unrest once the richest nation in the world isn’t any longer.

I actually appreciate how Mr. Cuomo has fought for federal help in mitigating what he sees as a bullet train headed toward the city of his birth. He has received national praise and has eclipsed former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat running for president, from his bunker (home) in Wilmington, Del., where he streams daily shadow briefings on the matter.

I don’t appreciate how north country leaders have been like crickets on the calamity raining down on us or their unwillingness to challenge current policy.

So I will say it. Let our economy restart. We work. We pay taxes.

This state and none of us can afford this. The notion we are “stopping the spread” by standing around doing nothing is specious.

The county I live in only voted 28 percent for Mr. Cuomo. That is a stark number for a man who keeps score. Let’s look at it this way.

New Yorkers are one, and we want to help the city. We can best do that by working and paying taxes. The alternative is an economic calamity of biblical proportion.

I admit I just want to go back to my life. Enjoy friends. Employ good people. Pay taxes. And be proud. I also understand challenges exist and good people are meeting them.

Standing in an empty business watching TV and producing nothing for the first time in my life is not fun. It’s wrenching. Current gallows humor about cabin fever and selling this as a war on the invisible enemy are a meal not very filling.

Disappearing jobs, diminished tax revenue, a ripped social fabric. All part of my world and yours and consider that replicated across thousands of businesses, families and governments in 62 counties.

Governor, let us work. Follow the data and abandon this one-size-fits-all governance.

Do it for the state as a whole. We can’t afford what’s going on now.

Easter this year looks pretty dour but hopefully can change.

Jeffrey E. Graham is the former mayor of the city of Watertown, having served five terms. He was first elected to the position in 1991.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


Recommended for you

(32) comments


If Mr. Graham wants to work HIMSELF, I'm sure he could go to any hospital in NYC and be kept busy. He might not be able to get any PPE since Trump is sitting on the shipments, but somebody has to die, right, Mr. Graham? At least you'd be working.

{isn't "graham" what people call a flakey cracker?}




This editorial from the former MAYOR proves Albany does know more than upstate. Painfully obvious.

keyser soze

“I might suggest that if you don't like my take, add to the discourse.”

Umm, isn’t that exactly what the other commenters are doing?

“The Times has always been willing to consider my letters and op/eds for publication and Jerry Moore seems to appreciate people who care enough to weigh in.”

Maybe. And maybe, similar to the vast majority of comments here, they saw the delusional absurdity in your selfishly motivated “tome” and were willing to watch you embarrass yourself much to our amusement.

“Rather than call someone a drug dealer, why not write your own tome for the editorial page ?”

While being socially “acceptable” - are you suggesting alcohol isn’t a drug? Are you saying YOU don’t sell it? Hey, it is what it is, deal with it.

But we get it Jeffrey, as an unabashed Trump cultist who suffers from an incurable case of Cuomo Derangement Syndrome, when you’re not busy pedaling crackpot conspiracy theories on your own blog and radio shows, you troll the internet in your newly discovered free time looking for anything to twist and bend reality in yet another feeble attempt to validate your distorted view of the world.

We’re not buying it.


Excellant keyser!


One out of four people over 80 who get COVID-19 die. It is incredibly infectious and easy to spread.

‘I am ok will killing one quarter of our elderly” -Jeff Graham

Holmes -- the real one

Are you certain that this is an actual quote? Could you please cite the source?


I think Nice was being facetious and applying a little liberty in interpretation. That's that underlying jist of graham's letter.


It is a joke quote, but that is exactly what he is saying. He is saying kill 1/4 of people over 80 to help business profits.

They are "Pro-Life" in the same sense that Donald Trump is "family values".

Holmes -- the real one

Well, it IS absolutely clear from this column that Graham makes business the priority over people's lives.

Is it cold-hearted selfishness? Or simple-minded ignorance? Or roguish rebellion?

It's definitely not pro-life or family values, anyway.

keyser soze

“They are "Pro-Life" in the same sense that Donald Trump is "family values".

And they are a “family values party” in the same sense that Trump University is a real college.


About 100000 people live in Jefferson County. The Covid 19 virus has a mortality rate of about 1 percent. So here's the question. Do we shut down a lot of businesses for a couple of months or do we take 1000 people out and shoot them?

Jeff Graham

I certainly respect your right to cast aspersions anonymously. I might suggest that if you don't like my take, add to the discourse.

The Times has always been willing to consider my letters and op/eds for publication and Jerry Moore seems to appreciate people who care enough to weigh in. Rather than call someone a drug dealer, why not write your own tome for the editorial page ?



You are a bar owner and the Trump supporting former mayor of a welfare town. Nobody wants your medical opinion.


You are a drug dealer, I thought Republicans didn’t like political correctness? You serve alcohol to obvious alcoholics with gin blossoms on their nose. That’s a fact. Like Trump owes hundreds of millions to foreign banks is a fact. ‘The family values party’ elected a man was cheating on his third wife with an adult film star while she was pregnant. Truth hurts Mr. Graham.




You are such a hero graham. One would think with your integrity you'd volunteer to go to the front lines in the city and do god's work. I bet if you owned a liquor store instead of a bar we wouldn't hear a peep from you.


I feel your pain, Mr. Graham. I really do. I feel it because your sentiments are vocalized by my beloved neighbors as we communicate by shouting across fields that distance us. I feel it because your sentiments were vocalized by my favorite Watertown convenience story owner, yesterday, upsetting me when suddenly his eyes turned teary. I feel it because your sentiments were vocalized on Facebook by a former student of mine, desperately appealing to his pastor to rethink the closure of his church.

My heart goes out to all of you unanchored by the things that were once your supports but are now crumbling underneath you.

It's hard when the bar is dark, the church is locked, business at the convenience store falls off, the economy tanks epically, and the movement that repudiates science, calls for limited government, holds disdain for social assistance, worships capitalism, reveres freedoms, etc., is rendered irrelevant by elite professionals and their expertises.

Your once sturdy ship is unmoored and going down.

You, Mr. Graham, as a former local leader, could take the rudder of the sinking ship, navigating locals who share your sentiments through the storm. Helping them adjust. Instead, however, you're one of the herd, devaluing life, endangering human health, and insulting the healthcare profession.

I feel for you. I really do.

keyser soze

After reading the former mayors self serving ramblings, I feel as though I just completed a walking tour of the inner workings of your typical reality detached Trump supporter’s mindset, leaving me with the sudden need of a shower.

Trump and his willfully ignorant anti-science cultists are still living within an alternate universe of reality TV, where what he wants to project, can, in his mind, and the minds of his minions, become the way things are.

The available medical based science is clear: ending social distancing during an emerging pandemic, and the hospital and medical infrastructure collapsing under the strain of any impending COVID-19 outbreaks, would in the long term, result in an even worse outcome for the economy where people become increasingly sick and dying.

The sad irony is that Trump’s ignorant proposals, with the help of his equally ignorant supporters, will cause much more damage, not just to people, but to the economy, because they will delay the contouring of the exponential curve, and actually spread the virus further.

The only question remaining is why this newspaper would allow for the needless waste of its print space.

Holmes -- the real one

It may be because the newspaper's editorial board is in agreement with Graham's thinking:

hermit thrush

this is a truly terrible column, but that's no surprise given the author.

hermit thrush

our society is essentially at war right now and the former mayor is ready to surrender after two weeks.


You may have a point. Everyday, the average number of deaths in Italy are @ 1250. Lately, 7-800 are dying from covid. Prior to covid, the vast number of Italian lives , ended with a case of pneumonia. What's the Delta? Have deaths increased by the Covid number,or did covid substitute for a pre-existing form of pneumonia, thus not altering the morbidity that much.


And BTW anybody wanna make a wager that both tRump and pence have tested positive ?


Watch the republican lemmings backtrack on this issue as soon as their supreme leader does![crying]

Holmes -- the real one

WATERTOWN — We hear you, Jeffrey Graham:

First I want to tell you that I am proud of openly defying any order to socially isolate.

You may remember me. I used to be mayor of Watertown and now I make my living telling gullible people what I think and, most importantly, selling alcohol.

Then, when Coronavirus concern hit, I was told to close my alcohol selling business and “socially isolate.” UNFAIR. I should be able to do what I want! So what if I have no medical expertise. Lots of people I know don’t either. We should be able to set public policy anyway. It’s not like I care about what happens to other people – that’s their problem. People get sick. They die. Stuff happens.

Imagine someone actually caring about whether people follow those stupid rules. If I can’t see people dropping dead right in front of me, it’s obvious all this “concern” is simply BS. My friends can’t conduct business and people have been laid off. All because of what? Nothing important, that’s what I say.

My idea of freedom is being able to do what I want whenever I want. The safety of others is simply not my concern. Say I want to take my pet to the groomers. That’s much more important than protecting the health of the vulnerable, for heaven’s sake. And even that has rules!

I hate Andrew Cuomo. The guy just irritates me. He irritates Jerry Moore too so I know I’m in good company on this one.

I have no medical training and I admit that I, like President Trump, just believe that I have a knack for knowing medical stuff. So I’m here to tell you that all of this hoopla is just that. A big nothingburger. I don’t know anybody who is sick – that’s all downstate. I don’t believe that Covid-19 will spread up here. Why? Because it just isn’t like those other areas. We’re better than that.

OK, washing your hands, fine – at least for now. Closing schools? Come on. And then risking tourism? What is the governor thinking? I could run things better than that – and I wouldn’t be taking advice from any medical experts either.

The numbers look fine to me. Only stupid people think that testing is important for assessing infection rate. Hey, the PR would be terrible if people knew everyone that was infected. Better to let them get exposed and well, die if needs be. After all, people die from lots of stuff. Old people are going to die anyway – maybe from the flu, maybe from one of the many other pandemics that are always going around.

This is just another attempt to make President Trump look incompetent and stupid. Look, people stuck at home are going to beat their wives and kids. They are going to get hopeless and kill themselves. Things would just be better all around if they could mosey down to the neighborhood pub and toss back a few with like-minded friends.


Superb Holmes, superb


Splendid response, Real Holmes. So Jerry Moore thinks Gov. Cuomo has left nonessential businesses open and now Mayor Nonemeritus Jeff Graham thinks Cuomo is restricting "business as usual." After all, what's the problem, right, Jeff? Interesting, too, that immediately above the Graham nonsense piece there's a cartoon of Trump (huddled in his White House bunker) exhorting Americans to get out and back to work "to save my economy." Taken in toto, I marvel at the wisdom beaming forth recently from the pages of the Watertown Daily Times.


Thank you, Holmes-- the real one.


There is only one thing more embarrassing and disgraceful than tRump - a tRump supporter. To all of you who love this country, think about this. The most we have to worry about tRump is a possible reelection. The ideology of his supporters will still be allowed to live in this country. Like stefanik, graham is struggling to make himself relevant and needs to elbow his way through the ignorance to somehow make himself noticed in a party of shame. Gee, I hope this message meets the approval of the powers to be.


I knew it would only be a matter of time before this fool stuck his foot in his mouth. He fits the mold perfectly of an ignoramus republican trumpette.


Mr Graham is a drug dealer. Do drug dealers care about people? Alcohol is more dangerous than Marijuana.

Nobody voted for Cuomo upstate? Nobody lives upstate Mr. Graham. More college kids in Dorms at University of Buffalo than in Lewis County. Jefferson County is a welfare county, most good jobs are for the government.

A drug dealer mayor from a welfare town doesn’t understand science. Color me shocked.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.