Editorial Roundup: New York

Albany Times Union. November 15, 2022.

Editorial: The Child Victims Act provided justice, but not for all

The landmark legislation left behind untold numbers of people whose cases aren’t tied to deep-pocketed institutions.

The massive judgment awarded to a 65-year-old woman for the abuse she suffered decades ago is a success of the Child Victims Act. But the likelihood that she will never collect it is a failure of the landmark legislation, too.

Certainly, without the law passed in 2019, which temporarily allowed victims to file civil lawsuits against alleged abusers, Patricia Egan would have had no legal recourse for the years of horrific abuse that started when she was 11 and living in Schenectady. Like thousands of others who allege childhood abuse, Ms. Egan was blocked by criminal and civil statutes of limitations until the legislation provided a path to justice.

But Ms. Egan’s case also illustrates the limitations of the Child Victims Act. Though she was awarded a nearly $19 million judgment, it is not at all certain she will receive a penny from her abuser, a former brother-in-law who appears to have few assets. Moreover, Ms. Egan was among the thousands of victims who struggled to find an attorney willing to take their cases because their abusers were not connected to deep-pocketed institutions.

Nearly all of the Child Victims Act lawsuits targeted institutions such as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts or local school systems, even though it is widely accepted that the overwhelming majority of childhood sexual abuse is committed by family members, friends of the family or neighbors. Only about one percent of Child Victims Act lawsuits were filed against private individuals.

The law, then, provided justice for some but not for all. That is why we have advocated for the creation of a fund that would benefit those for whom no payout is possible, even though their claims to justice are just as valid and their abuse just as devastating as that suffered by victims whose abusers are tied to institutions.

To be clear, financial compensation can’t make up for the lasting damage done by abuse; the Child Victims Act has never really been about money. Indeed, Ms. Egan, gratified by the verdict and her day in court, said her lawsuit was about holding her alleged abuser accountable and providing hope for other survivors. By those measures, it succeeded.

The problem, though, is that the state Legislature’s failure to create a fund for survivors meant that many other worthwhile cases never made it to court, which in turn means many abusers were not held to account. With the window created by the act now closed, it is possible they never will.

Lawmakers, however, could still establish a pool of money, perhaps funded by fines assessed against abusers convicted of offenses against children, that would benefit Ms. Egan and similarly situated accusers who have won in court. Lawmakers could also reopen the Child Victims Act window for those who say they were abused by private individuals.

Both moves would help complete the original mission of the Child Victims Act and would acknowledge that one set of victims is not more worthy than others — that abuse is abuse, and pain is pain, no matter who is responsible for the torment. There are still victims who deserve their shot at justice.

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Auburn Citizen. November 13, 2022.

Editorial: Tweak voting, reporting issues before Election Day

The 2022 midterm elections produced strong turnout throughout New York state, which was encouraging to see. Our representative democracy functions best with strong voter participation.

But every election should also be evaluated for what could have been done better to make it accessible and efficient.

In Cayuga and a handful of other counties, one problem that surfaced was slowness with the electronic pollbooks used to sign in voters. The result was a buildup in the lines at polling places in several municipalities, which is something every elections board wants to avoid.

Other counties that have the same electronic polling books vendor experienced the same problem, and post-election discussions are underway to figure out a fix for future elections.

It’s vital in Cayuga County that this problem does not get lost in a coming transition from longtime elections board commissioners Kate Lacey and Cherl Heary to newcomers Keith Batman and John Camardo.

We also urge Camardo and Batman to take a fresh look at the impact of a reduction in polling places in the city of Auburn this year. The elections board reduced the city from six to four locations on Election Day, with voters able to go to any of the four spots regardless of where in the city they lived. The current commissioners don’t believe this contributed to the lines, but it’s hard to imagine it didn’t have some impact. And in 2024, when a presidential election will drive turnout even higher, four locations could be inadequate.

A final issue we hope to see the state Board of Elections address is the inconsistency among counties in how they publicly report results. Especially with statewide and multi-county races, this can lead to confusion on election night about who is winning and by how much. At a time when some politicians and their operatives are unfortunately eager to sow doubt about elections, confusion due to inconsistent reporting is unacceptable.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. November 14, 2022.

Editorial: Governor’s Race Focus on Congress may have cost Zeldin

Actions speak louder than words. But following Tuesday’s election results– that were an overall disappointment to Republicans regarding the major races, its state Republican chair in name only offered his take.

“I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to Lee Zeldin for a herculean effort that re-energized and reinvigorated our party and instilled hope in nearly 2.7 million voters that they would finally have a voice in the direction of our state,” said Nick Langworthy. “Lee built a coalition of voters, the likes of which we have not seen in a generation, who want safe streets, economic freedom, and a voice in their kids’ education. That does not change with the election results and Kathy Hochul and the Democrats in charge would be wise to get out of their liberal bubbles and start working to create a state government that represents all 19 million residents.”

Republicans, who gave Langworthy a pass by electing him as the next Congressman for the new District 23, need to be more outraged. In a year where Republicans — led by Zeldin — could have won the governor’s seat, Langworthy made a conscious decision to abandon his first job as chair and run for Congress. At the time he began his selfish campaign, Zeldin was trailing Hochul by double digits.

Imagine how much stronger the Zeldin-Allison Esposito team’s “heculean effort” could have been with true support coming from the party chair. Instead, Langworthy ran away and found comfort in winning a race that was already likely to go red. Republicans in the district helped him by dismissing his dereliction of duty in backing him for the seat.

In the big picture, however, Langworthy failed his party in the most significant race. Hochul was vulnerable. Zeldin capitalized but couldn’t get over that last hurdle.

That result for governor is a blemish on this district’s incoming Congressman — and supposed state Republican chair. When he had the chance to lead his own party, he did not.

Now he’s supposed to represent us and this district? Our hopes are not too high. Because when the going got tough in the race for governor, the state’s top GOP official backed down.

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New York Post. November 17, 2022.

Editorial: NY state must pull out all the stops to recover that epic $11B in illegal jobless payments

Once again, New Yorkers are getting fleeced, this time to the tune of a whopping $11 billion (yes, you read that right) — thanks to fraudulent jobless claims during the pandemic and the state’s pathetic failure to stop them.

A report Tuesday from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli charged that lax eligibility requirements, poor oversight and an antiquated system allowed fraudsters to get away with more than 14% of the $76.3 billion Albany paid out from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021.

The high fraud rate combined with a 3,140% spike in claim payments (thanks to COVID business closures) served as an unprecedented one-two punch. The amount lost is beyond obscene, equivalent to about 10% of all state tax revenue — and more than Haiti’s entire Gross Domestic Product.

Though those payments happened in fiscal year 2021, DiNapoli notes that state officials failed to “heed warnings” as far back as 2010 that the system to handle jobless payments “was out of date,” “difficult to maintain” and “lacked the agility” to handle new laws and “workload surges,” like during the pandemic.

New York borrowed $9 billion from Uncle Sam to help cover its share of jobless payments, and still owes $7.7 billion. Gov. Kathy Hochul and lawmakers could’ve also set aside some of the $12.7 billion the state got in federal COVID aid to pay down the debt — but, of course, they didn’t.

Instead, businesses are now being forced to pony up more in unemployment tax assessments — adding to their cost of hiring.

Make no mistake: This is a fiscal nightmare of epic proportions, and state officials shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. New Yorkers are squeezed enough.

Law-enforcement, for starters, needs to pull out all the stops to recover every possible cent of fraudulent payments. And lawmakers should look to hold those in charge accountable — and, meanwhile, find existing funds to spare businesses any extra costs.

Too bad the state government has been (and still is) ruled by a single party, the Democrats, that couldn’t care less about overspending and overtaxing New Yorkers.

The sum involved here is beyond the pale. If Albany won’t act on this, the public needs to make those who run it face some serious consequences.

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Wall Street Journal. November 10, 2022.

Editorial: Will Kathy Hochul Get New York’s Election Message?

Lee Zeldin’s campaign helped the GOP pick up four House seats.

Lee Zeldin didn’t win his race for Governor of New York, but he came closer than any recent Republican, helped his party pick up four House seats, and sent a message to Gov. Kathy Hochul to act against rising crime and crippling taxes. Will she hear it?

With 95% of ballots tallied Thursday night Ms. Hochul led 52.9% to 47.1%, or about 330,000 votes. That margin should be little comfort in a state with 3.6 million more registered Democrats than Republicans. It’s also no comfort to the four Democrats who lost House races thanks to the statewide turnout driven by Mr. Zeldin’s spirited campaign.

The losers include Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The four seats could end up providing Republicans with the margin for control of the House. Nassau County on Long Island backed Mr. Zeldin by 10 points, despite preferring Joe Biden by the same margin in 2020.

Yet Ms. Hochul seemed to pooh-pooh Mr. Zeldin’s surge in her victory remarks. “The lessons of tonight’s victory,” she told a crowd in Manhattan, “are that, given the choice, New Yorkers refuse to go backwards on our long march toward progress.” No, the message is that voters are worried about the state’s deteriorating economy and public safety.

Ms. Hochul nodded to the crime issue with a pledge that New Yorkers should “have the safety to walk our streets and take our subways without fear.” But she offered only a progressive bromide: a crackdown on “illegal guns” that aren’t the root of the crime problem.

There was no mention of funding police to make up for mass retirements, or reversing the bail reform that has put countless criminals back on the street. On the economy, her only nod was a “special shout-out to organized labor for all you did for me.”

Ms. Hochul might want to look across the Hudson River to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who got a similar message from voters in his race last year. He edged out Republican Jack Ciattarelli by three points after leading by as much as 11 in the last round of polls. New Jersey’s second-ranking Democrat, Senate President Steve Sweeney, was beaten by a truck driver who spent almost nothing on his campaign.

Mr. Murphy is no moderate. But the past year suggests he knows what voters were telling him. After imposing the nation’s fourth-highest income tax in his first term, he adopted a “do no harm” approach in his second, and offered temporary property-tax relief. This week he introduced a bill to tighten penalties for auto theft after carjackings set a record in the state. It’s no cure-all, but any move toward stricter enforcement is rare in today’s Democratic Party.

Ms. Hochul won by turning out New York City voters with an ad blitz focused on abortion and Donald Trump. To turn around the state she’ll have to take on her party’s left. If she doesn’t, the decline of the Empire State and New York City will continue.

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