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University Archives at Center of Albany Bickering

In a curious incident of Albany-style pork, outgoing Governor David Paterson has earmarked a quarter million dollars to Cornell to archive his papers from his governorship.

New York State is one of the few states in the country to not have strict archival rules in place, and in allocating the funds to Cornell, Paterson has actually vetoed a law that would have required all future executive-office papers to be archived at the New York State Archives, along with such governors as Al Smith, George Clinton, and FDR.

Needless to say, a lot in Albany aren't happy about Paterson's veto, which they note is costing the state money:

Gov. David Paterson's decision to archive his papers at Cornell University came with a $250,000 grant the state's official archivist said could have been avoided, and no guarantee of when and how the documents will be made public.

"Had they come here, the taxpayers wouldn't have seen any extra expense," said Christine Ward, who maintains the papers of governors Alfred E. Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Cultural Education Building on Madison Avenue.

"The governor's records would have been included along with all the other records being transitioned," Ward said. "I have many colleagues at Cornell University in the archives there and they are a highly respected archival organization, and I respect them. But I am always concerned, as a general rule, when records that are public records go out of public custody."

The incident raises a lot of curious questions as to not only: 1) why Paterson would veto the bill (does he have anything to hide?), and 2) why did Paterson pick Cornell, of all places? After all, he's from downstate and attended Columbia.

To be sure, Paterson seems to have developed an affinity for Ithaca and Cornell over the course of his tenure in Albany: his daughter attended Ithaca College and Paterson frequently makes appearances at things like Cornell's Sy Katz parade in Manhattan.

But in the spirit of cutting the bloat out of Albany (and being a Cornell homer), here's an idea: disband the New York State Archives and store all of the material at Cornell. Cornell, as the state's land grant institution, is the perfect repository for such papers.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on December 19, 2010 (#)

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