Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:
An empty tantrum at the Yale-Harvard game
New York Post
For all their moral posturing, the kids who delayed last Saturday’s Yale-Harvard game were a smug and silly bunch.
The main demand was for the schools to divest from fossil fuels, a beyond simplistic “solution” to a genuine challenge. Mitigating climate change requires global reductions in CO2 emissions, but the issues are far more nuanced than the last great divestment battle, targeting apartheid in South Africa.
Indeed, obsessing about carbon emissions as utterly satanic is all about First World privilege: The Third World is still struggling to escape poverty, and sees no way to do so without burning a lot of oil and even coal.
So most of the kids who stopped play for an hour were just posturing in ignorance.
Nor were they remotely daring: Climate-change extremism is common “wisdom” on Ivy campuses, so much so that members of both teams spoke up in support of a protest that left them finishing the game in the dark.
Of the 148 students and alums from both schools who charged onto the field, only the 42 who refused all orders to leave got ticketed, for misdemeanor disorderly conduct — and there’s no way either school will actually punish them.
We have some sympathy for the few protesters who sought to highlight China’s horrific treatment of its Uyghur minority, and those complaining about the schools’ unseemly investment in Puerto Rican debt.
But even those causes are ill-served by what was, essentially, the college version of a toddler’s meltdown.
Congress Is King
Wall Street Journal
You may have read that a judge has ordered that Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, must testify in response to a Congressional subpoena. What you probably didn’t read in the impeachment press is that the sweeping ruling essentially eliminates a right to confidentiality between a President and his most senior advisers.
“The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” wrote Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in a ruling late Monday that was hailed far and wide as a victory over President Trump’s claim that close advisers have immunity from testifying.
The judge doesn’t stop there. She embraces a doctrine of Congressional supremacy that essentially says that even the President’s closest advisers must appear on Capitol Hill more or less on command. “With respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist,” Judge Jackson writes.
These aides may be able to withhold some “confidential, classified, or privileged information” in the national interest. But that doesn’t protect advisers like the general counsel from appearing on Capitol Hill, under penalty of contempt, to respond to the priorities of the current Congressional majority.
You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to see the risks here. If advisers can be forced to appear before partisan opponents on demand, White House discussions are likely to become more circumspect. Presidents are likely to get less honest advice, and advisers will get less candid insight into a President’s views.
Judge Jackson’s 118-page opinion blows past these concerns and dismisses long-time Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos on adviser immunity as mere “aspirational assertions” about presidential power. This includes William Rehnquist’s 1971 OLC memo that has been relied on by Presidents of both parties.
Judge Jackson relies instead almost entirely on a 2008 ruling known as Miers by another federal district judge that she claims as a definitive precedent. But such a lower-court ruling cannot be a binding precedent. In any case it was never enforced, and its logic was never tested on appeal because the executive and Congress settled the dispute after President George W. Bush left office.
The Trump Administration says it will appeal, and we hope this goes to the Supreme Court. The Constitution’s separation of powers assumes co-equal branches that would each vigorously defend its own interests. It does not imagine that Presidents or their aides are vassals of Congress. The doctrines of executive privilege and adviser immunity were developed to protect Presidents from the encroachments of Congress. That immunity has its limits, but it can’t be that it “does not exist.” The risks here are to all future Presidents, not merely to the current unpopular one.
Now Is The Time For The Public To Get Off The Sidelines
Quite often, public input meetings are attended by the same few dozen select people.
Those few dozen voices take on outsized importance because they are the only ones speaking. We hope that isn’t the case with four public meetings to be hosted by Mayor-elect Eddie Sundquist and his transition team in Deceber. The meetings will focus on the four issues Sundquist and his transition team have identified as the top priorities for 2020: creating a city for the future, strengthening housing initiatives and supporting neighborhoods and tackling financial burdens.
We hope that council members in those areas have received invitations to attend. While many of the issues city residents have should have come up during the campaign, it wouldn’t hurt the mayor-elect to ask council members from the wards to be part of these public sessions as well. Not inviting the council could be seen as a snub and set the administration on a more difficult path before it even takes office.
The public meetings have been scheduled to be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The Economic and Business Development Subcommittee will meet Thursday, Dec. 5, at Jefferson Middle School; Housing and Public Safety Subcommittee will meet Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Washington Middle School; Financial Stability Subcommittee will meet Wednesday, Dec. 11, at Persell Middle School; and City Operations and Human Resources Subcommittee will meet Tuesday, Dec. 17, at Jamestown High School.
Much like Mayor Sam Teresi did shortly after winning his first term as mayor, Sundquist is attacking the job with verve and energy. The mayor-elect has made clear that he wants to hear from the public and from the city workforce as he and his team begin forming a plan to address the city’s issues. Give Sundquist credit for making the transition team’s final report available to the public once it is completed.
We hope that attendance at the four public meetings encompasses more than the same 20 or 30 people who show up to everything. It would be good to hear from regular citizens about the issues as they see them, because it is entirely possible that the big issues identified by the transition team and the mayor-elect aren’t the issues that resonate the loudest with city residents.
If there are indeed some in Jamestown who feel as if they aren’t well represented by Jamestown’s city government, now is the time for them to get off the sidelines.
Low turnout at the polls is shameful
Anyone following O-D historian Frank Tomaino’s intriguing series on Utica’s mayors knows that many past elections for the city’s top post were squeakers.
Charles Donnelley defeated incumbent Fred J. Rath in 1929 by 92 votes — 16,757 to 16,665.
Vincent R. Corrou defeated Samuel Sloan in 1935 by 95 votes — 20,621 to 20,526.
Those — and many others — make incumbent Mayor Robert Palmieri’s declared victory over Joe Marino by 468 votes seem like a landslide. The unofficial tally last week: 4,711 votes for Palmieri, 4,243 for Marino and 964 for Matthew Arcuri. There were also 15 write-in votes.
But what’s really disconcerting here isn’t the margin of victory; it’s the turnout. In a city with a population of 60,635, just 9,933 people turned out to vote, or 16 percent.
Compare that to the 1935 election between Carrou and Sloan. A total of 41,147 people from a city populated by around 101,000 people voted in that election. That’s 41 percent. In the 1929 election, 33,422 of 101,740 Uticans went to the polls in the Donnelley-Rath race. That’s 33 percent.
Granted, these percentages are not based on the number of registered voters in the city during those years. The only tally of registered voters in the city is for the current year — and that’s 27,507, according to the Oneida County Board of Elections. Using that figure and those who voted in this year’s mayoral election, the percentage of registered voters who actually went to the polls is 36 percent.
That’s nothing to brag about.
Numbers of registered voters in the city in years past were not available. But one might deduce that given the number of votes based on population during those earlier elections, the percentage of voter participation back then would have been higher.
The low turnout today comes despite voting being made easier. Polling sites are more easily accessible. And this year, for the first time, voters in New York state were able to cast their ballots on several dates in advance of Election Day in an effort to make it easier. Unofficial results also show turnouts in Oneida and Herkimer counties were each lower than the statewide total. In Oneida County, 2,027 votes were cast early out of 136,555 registered voters, or 1.48 percent, according to unofficial results. In Herkimer County, 291 votes were cast out of 40,939 registered voters, or 0.71 percent.
Lack of voter interest is certainly disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is that according to the US Census Bureau, young people have the lowest turnout, though as people age, statistics show they are more apt to vote. This increases and peaks at age 50 and then falls again. Ever since 18-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972, youth have been under represented at the polls.
That certainly doesn’t bode well for their future. What it means, essentially, is that in many cases, they are letting the older generation make decisions that will affect them.
That is especially so in local elections. Statistics show that voter turnout — young or old — is always higher during a presidential year. But skipping out at the polls when picking local leaders is just plain foolhardy. It’s local government that tends to have the most effect on our day-to-day lives. It deals with codes, zoning, development, services and more, and the decisions they make determine how much we pay. Why would anyone give up their voice?
Our democracy is a system of majority rule, but we are being governed by people who are elected by the minority. Many say that there is little we can do about government, but that’s not true. The people who make the decisions are the ones you elect. When you abdicate your responsibility to vote and then want to complain, talk to the person in the mirror.
State needs to finally address arterial funding
The Auburn Citizen
New York state has been shortchanging Auburn for 32 years on funding for the Routes 5 and 20 arterial that runs through the city, and an increase absolutely needs to be included in the next state budget.
The arterial is a state-owned roadway, but reimbursement rates to municipalities for costs associated with maintaining it haven't increased since 1987. The costs, of course, have continued to rise.
In March, Auburn Mayor Michael Quill joined 34 other New York mayors with a similar gripe to call on the state for higher reimbursement rates. This year, the Legislature listened, and unanimous bills passed the Assembly and Senate to not only set a new reimbursement rate but allow the rate to be adjusted annually, consistent with the percentage change in the consumer price index.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week vetoed the legislation, arguing that such expenditures can't be considered outside the framework of the annual budget. Cuomo seems to be able to find plenty of money for his pet projects outside the confines of budget season, so this doesn't need to be any different.
Auburn officials have been asking year after year for an increase, but keep getting shut out. And more than two dozen other cities are in the same predicament. Before those cities begin another annual round of time-consuming lobbying, Cuomo could simply do the right thing.
The state needs to carry a fair share of the burden of maintaining important state roads like Auburn's arterial. If Cuomo refuses to address arterial funding outside of budget talks, despite the bipartisan support of the Legislature on the issue, then he should promise to put the money in the 2020-21 budget.