Editorial Roundup: New York

Albany Times-Union. January 23, 2023.

Editorial: A personalized plan

A pilot program could help address learning loss wrought by the pandemic – if it gets the funding it needs.

One of the most wrenching legacies of the pandemic might be what it has done to a generation of children.

Interruptions in schooling left many students far behind in their education. But that wasn’t all: Months or years of isolation and new stressors eroded social skills, destabilized routines, and tore safety nets. Though the disruptions have stopped, the fallout hasn’t: Too many kids are acting out, fighting, missing school, failing classes. And the ones who were already disadvantaged were hit hardest.

A proposal from the state Education Department would try to heal the damage in a simple but revolutionary way: by treating each child as an individual. The pilot program, being tested in 29 districts, creates an individualized education plan for every student – a learning plan that assesses each student’s social and academic needs and puts it all together so educators can collaborate to determine the right resources for each child.

It’s an ambitious plan. To match the scale of the learning crisis, it has to be. To consider each child as a person -- what they need, how they learn, what obstacles they face – has the potential to transform lives.

It will also be incredibly expensive.

Teachers, of course, already individualize instruction as best they can; no one will pretend that one-size-fits-all education is the best approach. But there are only so many teachers, and so many resources.

Albany High School’s response to concerns about chronic absenteeism sounds a bit of a warning here: Superintendent Kaweeda Adams argued recently that the best way to get students back into classrooms is an individualized approach -- one that addresses the different reasons each kid might be missing school. But Ms. Adams noted that programs to address truancy are understaffed and buckling under the caseload.

A thoughtful program without adequate funding is just another layer of failed bureaucracy. The state must not let that happen here: The pilot program must get the resources it needs to be a real test run – and if it’s effective, the state should commit to expanding it.

Well, it’s something to strive for

Have you heard? There’s no racial bias in the Spa City.

A member of the Saratoga Springs Board of Education shared the good news at a recent board meeting. Discussing plans to assign law enforcement officers to elementary schools, board member Erika Borman said, referring to Superintendent Michael Patton, “Dr. Patton did assure us that the concerns of bias and racism, he did not have any. His experience with our (school resource officers) and the police departments first-hand have emphasized that we do not have those issues in our district, in our community.”

Wow! As all of our other communities grapple with legacies of systemic racism, and we as individuals work to become aware of the unconscious biases that shape our interpretations of the world around us, Saratoga apparently has just gone ahead and got it right. It’s all the more impressive considering the state attorney general’s civil rights investigation into the city’s aggressive treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters.

But before they add a tagline to their city branding (“Saratoga Springs -- A Bias-Free Community!”), those who believe in this assertion might want to consider it from another angle: that their experience might not be the only valid perspective, and that suggesting that it is comes across as both dismissive and hurtful.


Auburn Citizen. January 22, 2023.

Editorial: Don’t take NY chief judge nomination to court

To sue, or not to sue?

That question is under consideration by Gov. Kathy Hochul regarding the state Senate majority’s rejection of her nominee for the vacant state chief judge position.

Last week, the committee that first vets judicial nominees in the Senate rejected Hochul’s choice of Appellate Division Judge Hector LaSalle for the post. The committee’s chair and the Senate majority leader both declared the confirmation process officially complete, saying the Senate has spoken and it was time for the governor to put another nominee forward.

The governor, however, has said publicly and talked to lawyers privately about her stance that the state Constitution requires a full Senate floor vote on her judicial nominations. As with many such questions, it’s easy to find legal experts who would argue both sides of the question.

At this point, though, we urge the governor to ask a different question. How would a lawsuit help New Yorkers?

As much as we disagreed with how the Senate’s most progressive wing characterized LaSalle’s judicial record before even taking a serious look at his work or meeting with him in person, it has also become clear that he likely doesn’t even have the votes to get approved by the full Senate, even with substantial Republican support. More Democratic senators came forward to say they would oppose LaSalle following the Judiciary Committee hearing last week, and we can imagine some who might have been inclined to approve his nomination under normal circumstances wouldn’t take kindly to the executive branch using the courts to force the Senate to abandon its committee system.

We also see the potential for a pretty big conflict of interest emerging in the courts with such litigation. Justices who could be a future nominee, or who might have been passed over for the post already, would be asked to make a determination. The issue goes to the heart of separation of powers, and it seems those very separations could be damaged with litigation.

What’s clear at this point is that this nominee, fairly or not, is severely tainted. Also, it’s evident that the Legislature and the governor need to get this vacancy filled so the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, has a leader and an uneven number of seats needed to avoid ties on its votes. Finally, it should be obvious that a protracted court battle over LaSalle will keep the governor and the Senate from the focus needed to enact the next state budget and get other important legislation passed in the 2023 session.


Dunkirk Evening Observer. January 23, 2023.

Editorial: HOUSING Worthy state goals come with pitfalls

As we noted earlier this month, improving access to decent, affordable housing is worthy of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s attention.

Rents have skyrocketed in many areas. Home prices increased dramatically — a welcome development for Jamestown homeowners who saw their home prices stagnant for decades before the pandemic-fueled buying boom. With that buying boom came an increase in housing prices that has priced some families out of the market.

Hochul is proposing a New York Housing Compact that will require all cities, towns, and villages to achieve new home creation targets on a three-year cycle. Downstate municipalities served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority where the housing need is most acute, including New York City, will have a 3% new homes target over three years. For municipalities in upstate counties, the new homes target will be 1% over three years. Localities will decide how to best meet their new home construction targets, including repurposing underutilized office parks and strip malls and incentives toward multifamily buildings.

Two things about her proposal are troubling. First is areas that have approved projects only to see state funding that made the projects possible fall through, like Home Leasing’s proposal to build 50 multifamily housing units along with 4,300 square feet of commercial space on Main Street, Falconer. Home Leasing gave up after submitting four applications for state funding, only to be denied each time. In such a situation, Falconer and Ellicott should not have the state’s funding decisions held against them.

But even more problematic is Hochul’s plan to allow a fast track review if a locality denies a zoning permit required for a housing development. The governor proposes allowing an appeal to be made to a new State Housing Approval Board or through the courts, with appealed projects approved unless a locality can demonstrate a valid health or safety reason for denying the application. The legislature should think long and hard about the State Housing Approval Board, a creation that, in our view, does nothing more than place an area that was once controlled locally in the hands of a bureaucrat who can’t find Chautauqua County with a map and a flashlight or a judge who has been given a case that, in essence, has a predetermined outcome.

There are dozens of other things Hochul could do to improve affordable housing options, including tax incentives to either demolish dilapidated housing and rebuild new, affordable housing in its place; reducing some of the state regulations — particularly regarding asbestos abatement — that drive up the cost of housing demolitions or rehabilitations; or helping fund new tax incentives for new home construction that many localities can’t afford to do themselves. Instead, Hochul is telling local municipalities to do her bidding whether it violates local laws or not — or else the state will do it for them.


Jamestown Post-Journal. January 24, 2023.

Editorial: Rejection Of Hector LaSalle Is More Proof Downstate Dems Lead State, Not Hochul

Last week’s state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that resulted in the failed nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle to be the state’s next chief judge confirms a chief worry about Gov. Kathy Hochul — she’s not dealing from a position of strength within her own party.

LaSalle said all the right things in his confirmation hearing — he’s pro-labor and pro-choice and would have been the first Hispanic to serve as chief judge. Democrats packed the Senate Judiciary Committee with senators who opposed LaSalle by adding three Democratic senators and one Republican, which provided the 10-9 committee vote against LaSalle. Democrats’ opposition to LaSalle centered on a belief that the nominee had been too moderate on several cases to come before the Court of Appeals and an election on which he ran on the Democratic, Working Famlies, Independence and Republican lines on the ballot as well as the Conservative Party — with Democrats seizing on the Conservative Party’s endorsement as a reason to question LaSalle’s credentials.

The Judiciary Committee’s vote leaves Hochul with two options: sue in an attempt to force a full vote in the state Senate or choose another judge more palatable to a group of Senate Democrats who want a judge who disregards precedent or what the law states. In essence, Senate Democrats want the type of judge they decried at the federal level when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and New York’s conceal carry laws.

As we opined in this space recently, the LaSalle vote was about more than one person’s qualifications to lead the state court system. It was also about Hochul’s ability to lead her party on important matters. In our opinion, Democrats rolled over the governor on legislative pay raise legislation in December. Last week’s defeat of Judge Hector LaSalle is another sign Hochul is being led by the legislature — and that’s not good for those of us who don’t live in New York City.


Wall Street Journal. January 24, 2023.

Editorial: The State Wealth-Tax Alliance

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Democrats finally have a strategy to stop billionaires from fleeing high tax states: Block the escape routes. That’s the logic behind coordinated moves in progressive states to tax wealth. The reforms aren’t likely to pass immediately, but they illustrate the increasingly open socialist goals of progressives and their public-union backers.

The confiscatory tax alliance emerged late last week when lawmakers from eight states unveiled plans to target wealthy residents. California, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Hawaii, Minnesota, Connecticut and Washington state are all represented, and several of the sponsors have already released bills. “We are here today to put billionaires and multimillionaires on notice,” said Washington state Sen. Noel Frame on a Zoom call. “They will pay what they owe.”

The taxes are branded as levies on wealth, but they vary in form. Some resemble Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s outline from 2021 and would cut out a slice from large asset holdings each year regardless of whether they grew in value. That includes California, which would take 1% a year from households worth more than $50 million and 1.5% from those worth more than $1 billion. This is a grab for the fortunes of tech entrepreneurs who have already filled Sacramento’s coffers with payments on income and capital gains.

The California bill would also require taxpayers with illiquid assets to file yearly reports on their holdings and eventually pay the tax, even if they move out of state. Communist China doesn’t even do that. The Eagles were ahead of their time when they wrote “Hotel California”: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

The Illinois plan would treat billionaires’ unrealized capital gains as income, taxed at 4.95%. The targets would have to pay the levy whether or not they sold the assets being taxed, though the author hasn’t mentioned a comparable deduction for capital losses.

“We want to send a message that there is nowhere to hide,” state Rep. Will Guzzardi told the press last week about the interstate effort. Illinois Democrats must still be fuming over the departure of hedge-fund founder Ken Griffin last year, along with his $200 million in annual state taxes.

Other wealth-tax proposals, such as New York’s, are better described as mega-surtaxes. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera introduced a bill to increase the state’s 10.9% top capital-gains tax rate, adding 7.5 percentage points for households earning more than $550,000 and another 7.5 points for those above $1.1 million. Including federal levies, this means politicians would take half of every dollar in investment earnings. You take all the risk, the politicians get half the gain.

The legislators say their plans will fund social spending, but they have a specific recipient in mind. The multistate launch was coordinated by Fund Our Future, an advocacy group affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. As usual, public unions are pushing the progressive lawmakers they fund to tap new streams of tax revenue so they can get bigger salaries and pensions.

These are all awful ideas—anti-growth and ruinous for the incentive to work, invest and take risks. The taxes are also difficult to calculate since the value of nonfinancial assets may not have an active market. All of this is why Sweden, the Netherlands and several other countries in Europe that imposed wealth taxes later repealed them.

Each of the new tax schemes would speed up the flight from the states trying to impose them, and our readers might think even Albany and Sacramento can’t be that dumb. But ideas that begin in the progressive fringes tend to become Democratic orthodoxy these days. For those planning ahead, real-estate agents in Texas and Florida are standing by.


New York Post. January 24, 2023.

Editorial: New emails show Hochul’s COVID test pay-to-play still stinks to high heaven

Gov. Kathy’s Hochul’s rancid COVID-test pay-to-play just keeps getting uglier. Emails have emerged suggesting that Charlie Tebele — who scored a total of $637 million in no-bid contracts to provide New York with tests and whose family ultimately gave some $300,000 to Hochul’s election war chest — was in communication with Hochul on COVID tests weeks before he scored his sweet deal.

Tebele would have us believe that he and the gov only discussed “community matters” at the fundraising bash the man threw her, but he seemingly included “Covid tests” among the topics he had been “asked to reach out” about on a “follow up” email.

In those emails, Tebele specifically offers his services as a test provider — and bingo, days later he has his massive $338 million payout with zero comptroller oversight, thanks to a special provision of Hochul’s endlessly extended COVID emergency order.

A month later, he got a re-up worth $299 million.

Tebele says he only emailed the governor’s office about buying tests because he read in The New York Times the state needed them.

Ha! Believe that and we have a bridge to sell you. Especially because the claim follows absurdity from Hochul about having no idea Tebele was a big time campaign donor at all — despite that fundraiser and her campaign later hiring one of his children.

Yes, it’s a total coincidence that one email from Tebele generated $637 million for him — thanks largely to the insane markup he charged Empire Staters for each test, more than double what other vendors (i.e. those without cozy political links to Hochul) were getting and well above the retail price despite being sold by the million.

Albany Dems, of course, are refusing to investigate. “I take her at her word,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of the governor’s flimsy excuses. And the ugly cycle of sleazy backroom deals goes on and on and on.