Editorial Roundup: New York

Albany Times Union. February 28, 2024.

Editorial: Don’t meddle with the Protective Services Unit

Gov. Kathy Hochul has continued her predecessor’s practice of interfering with the detail tasked with protecting her

Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2021 downfall provided many valuable lessons about abuses of power and what governors should and should not do. It would take hours to detail them all, so we’ll stick for today to just one: Governors should not meddle in the personnel decisions of the State Police unit assigned to protect them.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cuomo was among the many state executives to have used the Protective Services Unit as something akin to a palace guard, treating troopers almost as servants. As detailed by several Times Union reports, the Democrat and many of his predecessors instructed troopers to run errands, walk dogs, ferry his children and more. Officers who balked at assignments would often face gubernatorial demands that they be transferred.

Even by the standards of prior governors, Mr. Cuomo’s abuse of the unit appeared to be extraordinary. For example, reporting by the Times Union’s Brendan J. Lyons revealed that during his (almost) three terms, members of the detail would often be ordered to transport the governor’s children back and forth to Hyannis Port in Massachusetts, to and from colleges and airports, and for other personal errands.

Toward the end of his tenure, Mr. Cuomo was also accused of urging that a female trooper be transferred to his protective detail, despite her lacking the required qualifications for the job, because he found her physically attractive. According to a report by the state attorney general’s office, the governor sexually harassed the trooper once she was reassigned to the unit. The report alleged he kissed her on the cheek and engaged in other unwanted touching that included “running his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip.”

That episode was an extreme example, certainly, but offers a reminder of why governors must stick to protocol and avoid meddling with personnel decisions involving the unit. Its troopers are there to protect the governor, their office and nothing more. They are not gubernatorial gofers, personal assistants or confidantes. They are professionals assigned to an important task.

Alas, as Mr. Lyons reported, interference with the unit has continued under Gov. Kathy Hochul. Her office recently pushed for the promotion of the newly appointed head of the Protective Services Unit, and also directed the superintendent return an investigator to the detail who had been removed on the recommendation of a staff inspector.

While Ms. Hochul’s office has declined to answer specific questions about those matters, a spokesman said that “all personnel decisions at the New York State Police are made by the superintendent.” Unfortunately, evidence suggests otherwise.

To be sure, the level of meddling from Ms. Hochul’s administration does not approach the extreme interference by Mr. Cuomo, or from other prior New York governors. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that a governor who promised a clean break from the ethical breaches of her predecessor would continue with practices that violate protocol and chain of command.

Governors must not meddle with the State Police unit assigned to protect them. It is no more complicated than that.


Oneonta Daily Star. February 27, 2024.

Editorial: Redistricting saga needs to come to an end

Here we go again.

Democrats in charge of New York’s Legislature have rejected boundaries created by a bipartisan redistricting commission and proposed their own new lines for congressional districts.

It was not so long ago that the redistricting commission was stuck in partisan deadlock, unable to agree to a set of maps. The Legislature stepped in then, too, adopting lines favorable to the Democrats in control of both chambers.

Republicans, of course, did not like that. They successfully sued and we ended up — for the 2022 election — with maps created by a court-appointed “independent expert.” The changes led to big Republican gains in that election.

Democrats were the ones unhappy after that result. They sued to throw out the 2022 map. The case eventually reached the state’s high court, which in December ordered a new map to be drawn in a ruling that said the commission should have another chance to craft district lines.

According to Associated Press reporting, the legislation proposed after Monday’s rejection vote leaves much of the Independent Redistricting Commission’s recently unveiled map in place, but it includes changes to districts in suburban Long Island and the 19th District, which includes much of our area.

Of local interest, the commission’s map would have placed all of Otsego County in the 19th District. The county was split between the 19th and 21st districts after the last court fight. Heck, even the town of Pittsfield was split by the line drawn by that “independent expert.”

The Democratic proposal is seen by some analysts as a significant step in the yearslong battle over New York’s 26 congressional seats, because even slight tweaks in the state’s map could help determine which party controls the U.S. House after the November elections, the AP reported.

Republicans have already threatened a legal challenge if the lines are approved. Of course they have.

The state commission’s map would have helped Democrats in two districts and Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro in the aforementioned 19th, the AP said, but it left most of the current lines in place.

New York Law School professor Jeffrey Wice, who focuses on redistricting, told the AP “this new map doesn’t veer that far off from the commission’s map.”

But he noted the lawmakers’ proposal would make changes to the Hudson Valley district held by Molinaro that could make his race more competitive.

The proposed map also would slightly reconfigure three districts on suburban Long Island, including the seat won recently by Democrat Tom Suozzi in a special election. That district was formerly held by George Santos, who was expelled from Congress.

Wice said the Legislature’s proposed map could help Suozzi, as well as Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a time when, instead of voters choosing their leaders, leaders choose their voters. But, thus has it ever been in this republic, as the practice of tweaking districts goes back more than two centuries to Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, after whom gerrymandering was named.

The independent commission was supposed to stop such shenanigans, but it was easy to see at its creation that political interests would overshadow independence as long as legislators were not bound by its decisions.

Something needs to give and sense needs to prevail. New Yorkers should be able to expect their Congressional districts to change no more than once every 10 years, in line with the national census.

And, please, can we get Pittsfield entirely in one district or the other?


Adirondack Daily Enterprise. February 23, 2024.

Editorial: The wrong words at the wrong moment

We’ve seen our fair share of political gaffes over the years, but Gov. Kathy Hochul made a comment this past Thursday that rendered us momentarily speechless.

“If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul said. “That is a natural reaction. You have a right to defend yourself and to make sure that it never happens again. And that is Israel’s right.”

She made this analogy about the Israel-Hamas war in front of a crowd at a Jewish philanthropy event in New York City for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. She said Hamas must be stopped and that Israel couldn’t continue with “that threat, that specter over them.”

The backlash was swift, as were comments in support for Hochul — evidence of just how sharply divisive this issue is. The Israel-Hamas war is steeped in decades of religious history, bloodshed, long-simmering conflicts and tension. More than 29,000 Palestinians and at least 1,200 Israelis have been killed since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and Israel’s foreign ministry, respectively. Hamas continues to hold Israeli citizens hostage. As the war rages on, innocent civilians will continue to be caught in the crossfire.

A poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released on Feb. 2 found that half of American adults — 63% among Democrats, 33% among Republicans — believe that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has gone too far. That, of course, means that more than half of Americans believe that Israel’s campaign has either “been about right” or has “not gone far enough,” according to the poll.

In a statement to the New York Times, Hochul later apologized for he comments, saying it was a “poor choice of words” and that she regretted her “inappropriate analogy.”

Her statement further illustrates how politics can sometimes cross common sense lines to an absurd degree. It also shows the danger of oversimplification. In reality, we know that in this theoretical scenario, Hochul would not have the authority to launch an international war. We know that despite all attempts by politicians to make war seem like a cut-and-dry solution — or a “natural reaction,” as Hochul put it — that each conflict is different, each conflict has nuances, and declaring war may not always be the right response. We also know that the lives of innocent civilians are not dispensable. In this time of extreme political divides, the last thing we need is for our leaders to stoke the flames of division for their own political gain.

Hochul was wrong to make the analogy. She was right to apologize for it.


New York Post. February 27, 2024.

Editorial: Albany Democrats do their best to defy the public will without the public noticing

If they did one thing in voting to scrap congressional maps drawn up by the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission, the Democrats who run New York’s Legislature proved their contempt for the express will of Empire State voters.

Time and again, the public has voted for a neutral process aiming at fair districts; time and again, the Dem supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate have moved to undermine that — with Senate Dems going as far as to stack New York’s highest court to enable fresh gerrymandering.

Yet beyond overruling the commission, it looks like the powerbrokers opted for caution this time.

Early analysis of their changes to the commission’s maps suggest this is less drastically one-sided than Democrats’ 2022 gambit, which wound up a humiliation as the courts intervened to prevent a blatant gerrymander.

Heck, one of the larger moves mainly makes it easier for Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-Bx./Westchester) to win his primary against another Dem, Westchester County Exec George Latimer.

Rumor suggests that’s at the behest of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who supposedly worries a Latimer win would block the Bronx Democratic machine from controlling the seat in the future.

Pretty smallball.

The other shifts will help Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-LI) hold onto his seat in November by making his district a bit more Democratic, and slightly toughen the races of several of the Republicans elected in 2022.

It’s clear the Legislature’s leaders avoided more aggressive moves for fear of a fresh court humiliation (a legal battle that would also delay the planned June primaries).

That is, Dem leaders opted to give House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-B’klyn), who’d demanded they do something more than respect the commission’s maps, only a minor boost in his quest to become speaker.

In short, they did as much as they thought they could safely get away with, without the general public noticing — while still getting something for all their trouble in forcing an “extra” redistricting.

The sad thing is, all these petty calculations to serve partisan ends is probably the least-bad performance the voters can expect for what passes as “leadership” in Albany.


Wall Street Journal. February 26, 2024.

Editorial: New York’s Gerrymander Hijacking

Democrats in Albany kill a bipartisan redistricting commission’s map to try to wring out more safe Democratic House seats.

Democrats love to denounce gerrymanders, but watch what they actually do. The New York Legislature on Monday voted down a U.S. House map approved by the state’s independent redistricting commission. Be suspicious of what’s coming next, since Democrats hope another gerrymandering cycle will help them seize the House Speaker’s gavel in November.

This is the second time in as many years that New York lawmakers have thumbed their noses at voters. In 2014 the electorate amended the state constitution to ban partisan gerrymandering and set up a bipartisan redistricting commission. In its debut two years ago, the commission deadlocked and offered competing maps. Instead the Legislature decided to draw its own plan, giving Democrats an advantage in 22 of the state’s 26 seats, or 85%.

This was a partisan gerrymander so obvious that the state judiciary couldn’t ignore it, and the plan was struck down. The 2022 elections took place under a map drawn by a special master, and the result was competitive. Democrats won about 54% of the raw votes for House candidates, which translated into 15 seats, or 58%. Unsatisfied with fairness, Democrats went to court again, saying the replacement map was good for one election only. They won.

Back to the bipartisan commission. In a 9-1 vote recently, it approved a map that largely ratified the status quo, with some tweaks that made it slightly more favorable to Democrats. “This vote is ultimately a victory for the commission process and for democratic—small ‘d’ democratic—participation in the state of New York,” said Ken Jenkins, the body’s Democratic chairman. “I am very proud of my colleagues and their ability to come together in a spirit of compromise to work to deliver this plan.”

But the Democratic leader in the House, New York’s own Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, doesn’t want compromise. He wants to evict GOP Speaker Mike Johnson from that big Capitol office, so he can pass progressive legislation for all 50 states. Given the slender Republican House majority, flipping the House in November might not take much. By our deadline we hadn’t seen Albany’s replacement map, but given how bloody-minded Democrats have been throughout, expect the worst.