Editorial Roundup: New York

New York Post. September 27, 2022.

Editorial: If Hochul really wanted to crusade against fraud, she’d be ordering an investigation into... herself

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest attempt to portray herself as a ruthless crusader for honesty and efficiency is weak stuff indeed: She’s announced another move in her crackdown on unemployment cheating, seeking repayment for the $11 million burned that way in August, per a Department of Labor investigation. (The total so far this year looks to be more than $110 million).

Yes, fraud needs fighting, absolutely. But Hochul’s already wasted far more than this on ideologically-driven spending and fiscal favors.

Heck, Hochul’s actually sticking the private sector with the bill for vast (and fraud-filled) jobless payouts during the pandemic. Most other states have used their own funds (or federal relief payments) to cover these deficits. Not New York, which owes the feds $8.1 billion and entered the last budget cycle with an $11-plus billion surplus — but didn’t spend a dime on that debt.

Now we face a per-employee tax on business that will ratchet up each year we don’t pay, while New York’s “leaders” hope for another federal bailout.

Meanwhile, Hochul’s $220 billion budget was an almost 30% increase from 2020 levels, swelled by pork like a $1 billion-plus tax-break giveaway to the film industry, pension sweeteners for state workers and new benefits for illegal immigrants. Not to mention the $600 million gift to the out-of-state billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills.

Meanwhile, the state’s own recent numbers show a hideous shortfall of $6.2 billion by FY2027.

Heck, the unemployment fraud she says she’s targeting cost the state less than it lost by vastly overpaying her donor Charlie Tebele’s company for COVID tests. Physician, heal thyself.

If Hochul really wanted to target fraud, she’d be siccing state investigators on... herself.

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Jamestown Post-Journal. September 28, 2022.

Editorial: Don’t Ignore Warning Signs That NY Can’t Meet Timeline For Electric Grid’s Transition

A recent report by the New York Independent System Operator would give most policy makers a serious case of indigestion.

In a state that is pledging to have 70% of its power come from renewable sources by 2030 and be entirely fossil fuel free by 2050, seeing an independent report calling for massive investment in both power generation and power transmission to reach those goals should have alarm bells ringing. By 2040, the state will have to add between 111 gigawatts and 124 gigawatts of generating capacity to meet the state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s mandate to have a fully renewable electric grid. For reference, New York has 37 gigawatts of generating capacity, with 12.9 gigawatts of new generation developed since wholesale electricity markets began more than 20 years ago in 1999.

While calling for unprecedented levels of investment, the report does not put a price tag on the upgrades needed. But, it should be concerning that maintaining reliability during the shift to renewable power relies on technology that doesn’t exist yet.

“Long-duration, dispatchable, and emission-free resources will be necessary to maintain reliability and meet the objectives of the CLCPA. Resources with this combination of attributes are not commercially available at this time but their successful development will be critical to future grid reliability,” the report states.

New York must do what it can to avoid what’s happening in California, where emergency text alerts call on state residents to save energy to avoid rolling power outages because there is too much demand and not enough supply. A 2020 heat wave resulted in rolling blackouts in California, and earlier this year state officials warned California could face a shortfall of 1,700 megawatts of electricity. That shortfall affects between a million and four million California resident.

We’re headed down that road here in New York unless state policy makers realize what California hasn’t — that the state’s arbitrary deadlines can’t be met with existing technology and available funding.

Generating more power from renewable energy sources is a worthy policy goal. fBut even the most worthy goals can be bad policy if they are pursued without acknowledging warning signs telling the state to slow down and act carefully. California is showing New York’s leadership what happens when virtue signaling is placed ahead of the needs of state residents. Let’s not follow their example — a reliable power grid is more important than fossil fuel-free power grid that can’t provide enough electricity to keep the lights on.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. September XX, 2022.

Editorial: BALLOTS Vote shenanigans are poor showing

It was shady politics for someone in the Republican Party to copy and fraudulently submit 11,000 signatures on a petition to get Republican candidate for Gov. Lee Zeldin on the Independence Party ballot line.

It was equally shady politics for Democrats to send 4.2 million pre-marked absentee ballot applications out to registered Democrats with the excuse of COVID-19 fearfulness already marked.

An investigation into the fraudulent petition is ongoing and the person found responsible should be punished.

But Democrats’ shady action is even more galling.

New York voters in November soundly defeated a referendum that would have amended the state Constitution and allowed for no-excuse absentee ballots. State voters spoke clearly.

On Dec. 31, legislation that allowed a COVID-19 exception to the state Constitution’s requirement that a voter have a valid excuse not to be able to go to the polls expired — meaning voters would have to have a valid reason to get an absentee ballot. As the Omicron variant spiked last January, Democrats’ passed another one-year period of the COVID-19 exclusion to get an absentee ballot.

So, state Democrats’ sending pre-marked absentee ballots should be no-harm, no-foul, right? Not exactly. Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, D-New York City, said on the Assembly floor that those who aren’t actually fearful of catching COVID-19 shouldn’t apply for absentee ballots.

“If they’re not fearful of contracting the illness then they shouldn’t request it. Not everybody’s a liar. If somebody’s not fearful, they’re not going to request it,” Dinowitz said.

What changed from “they shouldn’t request it” in January to sending one to nearly every registered Democrat in New York state? It’s a sign that state Democrats really wanted no-excuse absentee ballots. And if voters wouldn’t give Democrats what they wanted, Democrats would find a little wiggle room in the law to get what they wanted.

Democrats didn’t violate the letter of the law. Sending pre-addressed, pre-marked absentee ballot applications using the state’s COVID-19 fearfulness clause is legal. But in our view Democrats violates the spirit of the message voters sent last November when they declined to amend the state Constitution and allow no-excuse absentee ballots.

The people spoke. Democrats aren’t listening.

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Auburn Citizen. September 25, 2022.

Editorial: Voters deserve candidate debates

Although candidates may change, federal and state election seasons often feature the same tired campaign gamesmanship when it comes to debates.

Incumbents, no matter the party, aim to drastically limit debates with their challengers, sometimes refusing to debate at all. The newcomers, meanwhile, often go overboard, demanding an unrealistically large number of debates.

Debates are by no means a perfect tool for informing voters, but they are a vital one. It’s the clearest way to see how they candidates differ on issues and how they handle themselves in an unscripted, pressured environment.

In the race for governor this year between Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the pattern is playing out. Hochul will only commit to one debate, late in the campaign season, in New York City. Zeldin is calling for five or more throughout the state, and he refuses to participate in the one that Hochul says she will attend unless she agrees to do more.

Hochul absolutely should do more than one debate. The journalists who would ask questions in New York City are certainly going to overlook some key issues for voters in upstate areas. The same would be true in reverse if a single debate was held upstate.

That said, we also think five is unnecessarily high for a statewide race. We can’t imagine there would much to learn from a fourth or fifth debate that had not already been covered. And the possibility that Zeldin’s line in the sand could result in zero actual debates is a complete disservice.

Both of these candidates like to position themselves as politicians who focus on results, who don’t play the partisan games that most voters despise. It’s time for both of them to act like grownups and direct their respective campaigns to agree to multiple debates in multiple parts of the state.

We also call for the same commitment from the candidates seeking state legislative and congressional office this fall. The debate series annually produced by Cayuga Community College’s telecommunications department in partnership with The Citizen has extended invitations to all of the candidates in those races within the county, and we certainly hope all of them will take part.

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Albany Times Union. September 26, 2022.

Editorial: Orwell takes the subway

Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced funding to help New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority put security cameras in every subway car. It evoked that familiar push-pull feeling: wanting people to feel safe in public, but also wanting to protect privacy and fend off the normalization of a surveillance state.

On that front, frankly, the governor did not help.

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subways? You’re absolutely right — that is our intent,” Ms. Hochul said. “That is going to give people great peace of mind.”

Nope, “great peace of mind” is not the takeaway there. If the governor isn’t clear on what’s troubling about her comment, it might be time for her to give “1984” another read. It’s a nightmare, not a handbook.

That said, we understand wanting to bring riders back into the subway by assuring them they’ll be safe. Note, though, that there are questions about cameras’ effectiveness as a deterrent; Gothamist reported last year that MTA added 784 cameras in 2020, but even as ridership fell steeply the subway did not see a proportional drop in crime. And as security experts have noted, surveillance has a disproportionate effect on communities of color because its use, and the use of its data, can be guided by bias. Law enforcement access to the MTA footage should be only for investigating specific incidents, not for general surveillance or padding facial recognition databases. Let’s keep Orwell in the realm of fiction, shall we?

Add more debates

Gov. Hochul has agreed to a single general-election debate with GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin. The debate, hosted by Spectrum News NY1, would be held downstate, at Pace University, on Oct. 25.

The first of several problems here is that Rep. Zeldin says he won’t participate.

“This is absolutely unacceptable just how much contempt Kathy Hochul has towards New Yorkers that she is trying to pathetically get away with just one General Election debate over a month after absentee ballots start going out,” he said in a statement. “...It is important to have debates throughout the state to focus on issues specific to that particular region.”

Peeling back the partisan invective, we agree with the point Rep. Zeldin is making: One debate is not enough. New Yorkers deserve to hear more from the people who want to lead their state.

Full disclosure: The Times Union has been trying, along with Telemundo and WNBC, to organize a gubernatorial debate. Having more than one debate creates a deeper understanding of the candidates and their views, since different moderators will focus on different issues. And debates are different from stump speeches, TV ads and other candidate-controlled messaging: They require candidates to respond to live questions about issues, explaining how they’d apply their governing philosophy to a specific problem. And if a candidate tries to sidestep, the moderator’s there to nudge them back on track.

Participatory democracy has a lot of bugaboos: low turnout, cynicism, people who game the system. But it thrives on giving people good information so they can make informed choices. The alternative for voters is to automatically vote the party line, or – if they decide that they don’t know enough, or that there’s no real difference between the candidates – to skip voting altogether.

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