Editorial Roundup: New York

Dunkirk Evening Observer. November 10, 2021.

Editorial: Firefighter request is a small price

Volunteer firefighters for the town of Dunkirk made a worthwhile pitch to the board earlier this month. East Dunkirk Fire Chief Kyle Damon said an extractor, which is a piece of equipment used by fire departments to thoroughly clean their protective equipment, in order to keep themselves and their families safe in their own home, would be a valuable addition.

Any time you go to a fire, you’re obviously exposed to numerous carcinogens,” Damon said. “You take that stuff home in your vehicle, to your family and kids. There’s a report that found that firefighters’ children are 27% more likely to develop cancer because of exposure to this.”

According to Damon, the device costs around $12,000. With nine active volunteers who are handling nearly 300 calls this year, it is something both the East and West departments could use — and something neighboring Sheridan would like to purchase as well.

Either way, these are volunteers who respond when called upon — sometimes at all hours of the day. That $12,000 is a small price to pay to keep them safe.

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New York Post. November 9, 2021.

Editorial: Stop starving this NY state watchdog

While Gov. Kathy Hochul has garnered praise for her improvements to state-agency transparency and accountability, good government watchdogs say she needs to go further and beef up oversight of the state’s powerful off-the-books public authorities.

In a recent letter to the gov, the Citizens Budget Commission, Common Cause, NYPIRG, Reinvent Albany, League of Women Voters and others warn that the Authorities Budget Office has been starved, with a budget less than a third of what the 2009 law that established it deemed the bare minimum.

Authorities are routinely embroiled in corruption; one was at the heart of the Buffalo Billion scandal that saw several intimates of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent to prison.

The ABO is supposed to oversee the MTA, as well as the Thruway, Power and Empire State Development authorities, among many, many others. New York’s nearly 600 state and local authorities spend more than $60 billion a year and hold a staggering $243 billion in debt that the taxpayers are ultimately on the line for.

Yet the ABO’s $2 million is only enough for a dozen full-time staffers, a third of what the 2009 law prescribed. It certainly looks like state leaders don’t want this watchdog to have any bite.

If Hochul truly wants to clean up New York government, she’ll get the ABO enough cash to finally start doing its job.

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Advance Media New York. November 7, 2021.

Editorial: A hoop dream come true: Fans are back for Syracuse basketball

The last time fans gathered in Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome for a regular-season men’s basketball game was when North Carolina came to town on Feb. 29, 2020.

Let that date sink in for a minute and think back on the many lifetimes we’ve lived since, thanks to Covid-19. Then look ahead to a Tuesday like no Tuesday we have seen in 21 depressing months.

This Tuesday, fans will be back in the Dome for the Orange’s regular-season home opener against Lafayette.

It’s been a long time coming — 619 days, to be exact — and it can’t come soon enough. We’re beyond ready to get back to the rhythms of life before the pandemic, even though the pandemic isn’t done with us by a longshot.

We’re ready to see the newly renovated Dome set up for basketball. We’re ready for the noise and the crowds and the spectacle and the student section and the cheerleaders and the vendors and the season-ticket holders. We’re ready to watch the players in three dimensions instead of as flat-screen apparitions. We’re ready to hear the band and the boos instead of the lonely squeak of sneakers on hardwood.

After COVID canceled the end of the 2019-20 season, we were happy to at least have some games back for the 2020-21 season. But having no fans in the stands made it a weird, sterile experience for both players and fans.

For 2021-22, college basketball is back in full, albeit with precautions. The university will require ticket-holders aged 12 and over to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Masks are required, as much as that can be enforced, and judging by football, that’s not much. But most people make the effort.

As for the team, the main storyline is the Boeheim show, with Jim back for his 46th year as head coach, Buddy in his senior year and Cornell graduate transfer Jimmy now playing for the Orange. Dad, er, Coach must be pretty proud of his kids.

There will be plenty of other storylines, too. This year, Syracuse.com reporters Mike Waters, Donna Ditota and Mike Curtis and photographer Dennis Nett will be there, live and in person, to bring them to you. Last year, we could have one reporter in the Dome for home games. Our team reported on away games from their living rooms. All press conferences were conducted via Zoom. This year, reporters will be present in the Dome. They can interview players and coaches in person and travel to away games, including the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas at Thanksgiving.

The Orange women’s team kicks off its season Nov. 10 against Monmouth in the Carrier Dome. We’re not sure what to expect with this squad after the tumultuous exit of head coach Quentin Hillsman over allegations of abuse reported by The Athletic. After an unprecedented exodus of players, acting head coach Vonn Read will have a roster featuring seven transfers, three returning players and two true freshmen.

Before the season starts, fans can dream of NCAA tournament berths for both teams. But if COVID has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that nothing is for certain. That’s why they play the games … and why we can’t wait to watch them.

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Albany Times Union. November 9, 2021.

Editorial: Reformers got schooled on Election Day

Back in July, a Siena poll found most New Yorkers were in favor of a pair of constitutional amendments that would make it easier for people to vote. A mere four months later, the amendments failed at the polls.

What the heck happened? And how did another amendment that would have helped clean up the state’s flawed redistricting process fail as well? And perhaps the most relevant question of all: What now?

It’s simple: Don’t give up. Go back and do it right.

The Siena poll found 52% favored a change in the state constitution to allow people to register to vote right up to Election Day. But in the election, 51% of voters rejected it. Similarly, while 55% of voters in July supported allowing people to vote by absentee ballot for any reason, 50% of the electorate ended up voting against it.

Neither of those amendments would have led to more voter fraud. Even same-day registration would require proof of one’s identity. And despite large-scale absentee voting last year, the 2020 election was considered one of the most fair and secure in U.S. history — Donald Trump’s discredited claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

As for the redistricting amendment, it was a complex proposal to tweak the flawed system now in place; prevent more partisan tinkering with the size of the state Senate; require all people living in New York, citizens or not, to be counted for redistricting purposes; and count prison inmates in their home communities — not where they’re incarcerated — when drawing maps for congressional as well as state districts.

There was nothing insidious about any of this, but the state Republican and Conservative parties objected, for obvious reasons: With twice as many people registered Democratic as both those parties combined, anything that helps more people vote, or creates districts that more accurately reflect the political realities of the state, or ends the practice of using upstate prisoners to inflate rural district populations is seen as a Democratic advantage.

But let’s be clear: This wasn’t about a Democratic power grab, but an attempt by Republicans and Conservatives to cling to power at the expense of voting rights or improvements to an admittedly inadequate redistricting process.

And supporters of the amendments, possibly thinking that New Yorkers didn’t need to be sold on voting rights and fair representation, were caught entirely off-guard by a focused, multi-million-dollar campaign by the opposed parties to persuade voters to reject the three measures. Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs’ excuse — nobody asked for his help — encapsulates how oblivious the party was to the existential threat Republicans and Conservatives perceived these amendments to be, and to the need to counter the false but base-rallying voter fraud meme.

Where to go from here? For Democrats in the Legislature, it should be right back to the drawing board, to fine-tune the registration and absentee ballot proposals, pass them next year and the year after as required by the constitution, put them on the ballot in 2023, and sell the hell out of them.

As for redistricting, perhaps this is one pig no one can put lipstick on, nor should they. New York deserves a far more independent process than the one on the books. It’s too late to fix it this time, which means the next chance won’t came along for another decade. That leaves plenty of time to get it right, put a well-designed proposal before voters a few years down the road, and — we can’t emphasize this enough — sell the hell out of it.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s Politics 101. Here’s hoping reformers and reform-minded politicians paid attention.

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Jamestown Post-Journal. November 10, 2021.

Editorial: Travel Costs To Relocated City VA Clinic Should Not Be Paid By Veterans

We hope Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and other Veterans Administration officials are paying attention to a recent complaint that came before the Jamestown Human Rights Commission.

It seems veterans are having a hard time getting to the new clinic on Hazeltine Avenue. Not all veterans have a vehicle or easy access to rides, so Chris Blakeslee, a city resident who is part of the Human Rights Commission’s Veterans Exploration Group, has been giving veterans rides to the new clinic so that they can still attend their doctor’s appointments.

Commission members discussed using local medical transportation companies or the county’s CARTS bus system to provide rides for veterans. Those are ideas worth pursuing, but in our opinion the cost for those services should not come from veterans’ pockets. A group of veterans pushed back hard against the VA’s decision to move the city’s VA Clinic from West Third Street to Hazeltine Avenue, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Now, the chickens have come home to roost. Moving the clinic may have filled some boxes on a federal bureaucrat's spreadsheet, but it has created a burden on veterans who didn’t need another hassle. In our opinion, the Veterans Administration should pay the cost for veterans to find transportation to the new clinic.

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