Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Long Island Six needs to deliver for residents
In the New York State Senate, the Long Island Nine are now the Long Island Six, the stalwart Republican bloc of years past transformed into a growing Democratic caucus.
For years, Republicans protected Long Island and other suburbs from the worst tax-and-spend instincts of city Democrats who dominate the Assembly. But the GOP caucus also blocked needed legislation like voting reforms, the Dream Act, climate change legislation, and an increase in the minimum wage.
We were cautiously optimistic when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2018, fueled by victories in four Long Island races that added to the two seats they already had. We cautioned that they needed to be just as resolute as Republicans in representing suburban concerns while passing good progressive legislation. But the record has been mixed.
The Long Island Six — Todd Kaminsky, John Brooks, Kevin Thomas, Anna Kaplan, James Gaughran and Monica Martinez — helped pass a raft of bills that were long overdue, but showed little backbone against the successful campaign by city Democrats to scuttle the deal to bring Amazon to Long Island City. The project’s 25,000 good-paying jobs would have boosted the regional economy; some of those workers likely would have settled on Long Island. The Democrats also participated in a rushed process with no public hearings that led to a poorly drafted bail reform law in 2019, and some fixes made this year still might not be enough.
We hope they’ve learned their lesson. Most say they have. They need to form a stronger alliance with suburban colleagues in the Hudson Valley and upstate. This will be critical in the brutal funding fight ahead, and in the event Democrats pick up two more Senate seats. That would give them a supermajority in both chambers, enough to override vetoes by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who must balance the needs of the entire state. It also would mean Democratic control over redistricting. We want a fair process that produces sensible districts, not the partisanship shown by both parties in years past, but the temptations to skew lines will be strong with one-party dominance.
The Long Island Six is on notice. We expect more. Time to deliver.
The Supreme Court’s Election Dodge
Wall Street Journal
How’s this for anticlimactic? The Supreme Court had an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans for three weeks. State law unambiguously says that mail-in votes are due at 8 p.m. on Election Day. But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court pushed that deadline back to Nov. 6, even if the ballot lacks any legible postmark.
The GOP and state legislative leaders asked the Justices for a stay on Sept. 28. The length of time the High Court pondered it led observers to wonder if something decisive might be in the offing. Nope. On Monday a terse statement from the Court said the request “is denied.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would have granted the stay. With a 4-4 split, the state judiciary’s extension was left in place.
The missing conservative is Chief Justice John Roberts. With no full opinion, one can only speculate as to his thinking. Maybe he was reluctant to halt a state court’s ruling on a question of state law. But elections for President and Congress also involve federal interests, and Pennsylvania law couldn’t be clearer in specifying that mail-in votes must arrive “no later than eight o’clock P.M. on the day of the primary or election.”
Perhaps the Chief, concerned by Democratic attacks on the Court’s “legitimacy,” is betting this problem will fizzle out. He had better hope so. If the ballot counting on Nov. 3 is close, the parties could soon be back knocking at the Chief Justice’s chambers. Then the stakes would be far higher, since a decision by the Justices could tip the outcome as millions of Americans watch. Justice Amy Coney Barrett will be settling into her new chair, knock on wood, precluding a 4-4 split.
If it comes to that, it’ll be hard to argue that October wasn’t a much better time to tell Pennsylvania to follow its own election code.
Parking Fee, Ticket Hikes Eat Up Small Tax Reduction
The Post Journal
Mayor Eddie Sundquist proposes to save the owner of a $70,000 house about $12 a year on city taxes in 2021.
That’s a laudable step, until you realize that if that homeowner works downtown, the savings are going to be quickly eaten up in the form of new parking fees in about six weeks. Someone parking eight hours in a metered space downtown spent $1,560 a year in 2019. In 2021, they’ll spend $2,080. So an average homeowner’s $12-a-year is replaced by the average person’s $520 a year.
In addition, Jamestown will have an additional 150 parking meters in spaces that had been marked free while eliminating two-hour free parking. If our hypothetical business owner owns a downtown business, that business owner will be paying an additional $150 a year to participate in the city’s Business Owner Parking Permit program. Enjoy the $12 savings on your property taxes — because you’re getting $150 in additional parking fees for your business.
We won’t say Sundquist’s plan comes with no thought. Increasing meter fees is proposed both to keep parking spaces turning over throughout the work day as well as to ultimately pay for parking meters that can accept payments by smart phone. Increasing parking fines is another way to discourage people from parking all day in spaces meant for shop customers. Both of those end goals make sense, but talking about property tax relief that doesn’t amount to a tank of gas each year while costing most people an extra few hundred dollars a year in fees isn’t exactly relief, either.
By the way, looking at the comparable cities Jamestown is using to justify its increased fees, we’d be shocked if this isn’t just the first such parking fee increase. The city is going up a quarter to $1 an hour. It’s comparables range from $2.25 to $3. Don’t be surprised when those parking meter fees jump up again soon.
The bigger test is beyond Election Day
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise
The upcoming election is a major crossroads for this nation. The two paths before us are perhaps more widely divergent than at any time in recent memory. And the number of political campaign signs we’ve seen while driving around the North Country is more than we ever remember seeing before.
But let’s not only hope for our preferred candidates’ victory. Let’s also prepare to maintain dignity and civility if other candidates win.
The leaders of both of our major political parties offer horrific forecasts for what will happen to us if the other side wins in November, but let’s not be rushed into panic mode. Yes, the decisions the president makes over the next four years will affect our lives, and will hurt some people more than others. But things will come around again. Political parties have been taking turns for our nation’s entire history, and we don’t see any that cycle ending anytime soon.
While democracy is the best system of government we have seen, it’s not a game one can permanently “win.” Even in the short term, your favorite politicians are not going to solve every problem you see. Life is not going to be perfect. There will still be injustice, immorality, poverty, violence, waste and pollution. And sometimes, the world really goes sideways. We have to live with it, and live with each other through it.
We can never use the state of the world as an excuse for not doing good. If we, as individuals and communities, have good hearts and do good works for each other, we will get through anything.
People with some form of religious belief often have a advantage in this perspective because they supposedly believe that this world, this life, is not our true home — that we are here temporarily, that we are being tested on how we behave in good times and in bad, and that faith and good works will be rewarded in the hereafter.
This election will be a big test for our nation, not just in which leaders the majority of us choose but also in how we conduct ourselves through the process.
With so many absentee ballots this year, due to the pandemic, the winner of the election will probably not be known for days or weeks after Nov. 3. There will probably be accusations of fraud, foreign interference and/or mistakes. At least some of those things may actually happen, although the accusers have reasons to blow them out of proportion. We, the people, will have to be patient.
Trusting the system is hard, but know that our decentralized voting system is actually pretty impervious to tampering, run as it is by thousands of local election boards. It can get messy, but those poll workers really believe that the way to choose leaders is by voting. So do almost all Americans. We want the system to work. So let’s weed out the problems and make it work.
An even bigger test will come after the election results are known and the next presidential term begins. In a divided nation, it will be more important than ever for the president to try to govern for all, not just those who voted for him. But whether he does that or not, it will be critically important for us to hang tight and try our best to live with those with whom we disagree.
The integrity and resilience of the people is far more important than any government leadership or policies. So let’s keep resilience in mind these next few months. Maybe the pandemic will actually help us do that. It is forcing us to adapt to adversity — and adaptability is the key reason why humans have survived and thrived as a species.
Don’t rush final Owasco watershed rules vote
The Auburn Citizen
It may seem odd to argue that the city of Auburn and town of Owasco need to be careful against voting too quickly on the finalized rules changes for the Owasco Lake watershed. The process to get to those votes, scheduled for the end of this month, has played out for nearly four years.
But we can’t help but look at the Oct. 29 agenda for a special joint meeting of the two municipal bodies — Auburn City Council and Owasco Town Board — and wonder how it can include both a public comment period and final votes.
For an issue as complex and as important as a new set of rules aimed at responsibly protecting this lake, it feels like this final phase came together rather suddenly.
The COVID-19 pandemic surely has played a part in the process. Restrictions on public meetings have prevented the rules and regulations steering committee from conducting education and outreach efforts for much of this calendar year. Large public feedback sessions last took place in the spring of 2019.
This week, though, town and city announced the Oct. 29 meeting to bring the process to a conclusion.
The Oct. 29 meeting itself will have limited attendance because of pandemic restrictions. The public can participate only through teleconference. People interested can register by 4 p.m. that day.
It all adds up to a process where the quality and quantity of final public feedback could be rather limited, yet final votes are on the agenda.
We suggest breaking this final process into a couple of joint meetings. The Oct. 29 session would feature public comments and a final presentation by the steering committee. Then the two boards discuss what they are hearing that night and give the steering committee final questions to answer or potential changes to make. A second, final meeting would take place roughly a monthly later for the final vote.
The efforts that have gone into this process have been nothing short of impressive. The Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council and Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development have been painstakingly thorough and deliberate working with the steering committee to get a set of rules drafted that Auburn and Owasco can send to the state with confidence.
Let’s not allow all of that challenging and meticulous work to be blemished in any way by a rushed final few weeks.