Editorial Roundup: New York

Albany Times Union. June 2, 2021.

Editorial: Stop the gunfire

The gun violence Albany is experience this year is part of a national problem that demands, among other things, stronger federal gun control laws.

THE ISSUE:

Albany, like cities around the U.S., is seeing a terrifying spike in gun violence.

THE STAKES:

The success of our cities — and the safety of our children — depends on stemming the flow of illegal guns.

Early on Sunday, 29-year-old Devin McGlothan became the ninth person killed in Albany so far this year. The East Greenbush resident was shot at the corner of Quail Street and Elberon Place in the city’s Pine Hills neighborhood.

The toll, which includes six killings in May alone, is both shocking and unacceptable. This dramatic spike in mayhem, killing children and bystanders alike, must be treated as a crisis. It demands an immediate, forceful and yet thoughtful response, and not just from City Hall and the police department.

This isn’t happening in Albany alone. Cities across New York and around the country are experiencing similar — and in some cases more severe — increases in gun-related crime this year, following a 2020 that was also notable for spiking numbers of shootings and homicides.

This is a national problem, then, that demands a federal response. It requires that this gun-saturated country at last get serious about stemming the flow of illegal weaponry, including the trafficking of guns from states with lax laws to those, like New York, with tougher ones.

“This is about guns coming into our community,” Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan told reporters after McGlothan’s death. City police, meanwhile, say they’ve confiscated 35 illegally possessed firearms this year.

In a country where children are shot as they play, Congress must pass legislation requiring background checks for all gun purchases. That’s the very least lawmakers should do. Instead, Americans get continued inaction.

In a country where innocents are gunned down in schools and on sidewalks, we should expect the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to deal seriously with gun sellers who violate existing laws. But as a recent USA Today investigation found, the nation’s supposed gun watchdog is “largely toothless and conciliatory, bending over backward to go easy on wayward dealers.”

That’s outrageous. And infuriating. It needs to change, immediately, starting with putting leadership in the agency committed to public protection, not coddling lawbreakers.

Yes, it is true gun control is not a panacea. There are other factors behind this wave of violence. Stemming it requires a multipronged effort.

We need, for example, better policing and police officers who walk their beats and know their neighborhoods. We need more investment in programs that defuse violence and address the inequities, both economic and social, that so often underlie it.

But the killing of Destiny Greene, a 15-year-old from Latham killed when the car she sat in was sprayed with bullets in the Mansion neighborhood, doesn’t happen without the gun. Neither does the death of Sharf “David” Addalim, the corner store worker gunned down in West Hill as he returned from afternoon prayer.

In fact, eight of the nine killings in Albany this year involved guns, an essential fact that can’t be ignored. To address spiking violence, then, we must address the guns. We’ll say it again: To address the violence, this country must take action on guns.

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Advance Media New York. May 30, 2021.

Editorial: Le Moyne College: Developing minds, hearts and souls for 75 years

In 1946, a new Jesuit college in Syracuse opened in a storefront on East Onondaga Street as its campus on the eastern edge of the city was being built. Le Moyne College, named after the 17th century Jesuit missionary to the Haudenosaunee, Simon Le Moyne, would “provide for the city a truly American school with religion and morality as the foundation stones,” wrote Syracuse Catholic Bishop Walter A. Foery, the driving force behind its creation.

In the 75 years since, Le Moyne has built upon that foundation a school whose vision extends far beyond Syracuse, to worldly concerns like social justice, climate change and systemic racism, without losing sight of the needs of its hometown.

A Jesuit education develops the “whole person” for a life of service to others and to God. Since its founding, Le Moyne has sent more than 35,000 graduates into business, education, religious vocation, academia, healthcare and the sciences, with the stirring command of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, ringing in their ears: “Go forth and set the world on fire.”

This year, Le Moyne is celebrating its 75th anniversary with events and activities to engage students, alumni and the community. The celebration kicks off this weekend, as the college’s 881 graduates follow in the footsteps of the 259 in its first graduating class.

The story of Le Moyne College actually begins in 1937, the year Foery took office as Bishop of Syracuse. According to a history of the college to be published later this year, Foery decided Syracuse needed a Catholic college because it was the only large city in the state with a large Catholic population and no institution of higher learning to serve them. The bishop chose the Society of Jesus, with five centuries of rigorous spiritual and educational practice behind it, to establish the school.

Today, we can’t imagine a Syracuse without Le Moyne College. But that Syracuse is within living memory. Roughly 60 members of its first graduating class are still with us. Others around the community recall the college’s humble beginnings in that storefront on East Onondaga Street, then in the old Hiscock Mansion on James Street as construction of its new campus lagged at Le Moyne Heights, formerly the 103-acre Rosamond Gifford farm.

When the campus opened in 1948, there were just two buildings: the Administration Building (now Grewen Hall) and the Science Building (now the Coyne Science Center). Today, the Heights boasts 35 buildings. Enrollment in 1947 was 450, compared to 3,409 in 2020.

Le Moyne’s first students could choose from eight majors, heavy on philosophy, religion and history. Today, undergraduates can choose from more than 30 majors. Graduate courses are offered in business administration, education, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, arts administration, information systems, taxation and family nurse practitioner. The first doctoral program, introduced in 2019, leads to an Ed.D. in executive leadership. The school began offering evening courses in 1981 to non-traditional students. Its athletic teams have gone on to great success in their divisions, though they play in the shadow of Syracuse University across town.

Women have been integral to Le Moyne from the start. It was the first Jesuit school and one of the few Catholic colleges at the time to admit women. The college hired its first female professor, K.R. Hanley, in 1961. In 2014, Syracuse native Linda LeMura was appointed the college’s 14th president, becoming the first lay woman to lead a Jesuit university in the United States.

Under LeMura’s dynamic leadership, Le Moyne has become more deeply engaged in helping its hometown. Through its ERIE 21 initiative, the college seeks to address both endemic poverty and the tech worker shortage by training young people for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. Last September, as students returned to campus amid the Covid-19 pandemic, LeMura moved into an apartment near student housing to encourage safe behavior and to show solidarity — a key principle of Catholic social teaching.

Through its first 75 years, Le Moyne College and the Jesuits strove to create not just good students, but also good people — men and women of integrity, armed with the knowledge to change the world and the capacity to find God in all people and all things. We congratulate Le Moyne and its students, graduates, alumni, faculty and staff on the sturdy edifice they built on Foery’s foundation, as they embark on the next 75 years … ad infinitum.

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Plattsburg Press-Republican. May 27, 2021.

Editorial: Help for police – and all of us

The City of Baltimore will enact a plan June 1 to change its public-safety response to a more effective strategy.

When someone places a call to the police, the call will be directed to someone with a more specialized expertise in resolving the problem.

For example, if a store is being held up, police officers will be dispatched. On the other hand, if the caller is contemplating suicide, a mental-health professional will be summoned. A behavioral-health non-profit organization will contract to answer all 911 calls.

It is part of an effort by the city to provide a broader range of safety to its citizens, and it would certainly seem to be something of a prototype for what public safety will look like all over the country, eventually.

As it is now, Americans are used to calling police for anything that goes wrong in their lives. In Plattsburgh, police have been asked to remove skunks from back yards and react to people with serious behavioral health issues, as well as violence in a tavern.

And those calls are very common. They don’t include the extremely odd, almost unheard-of events everyday life can deal out.

We have immense respect for all of our police agencies, which have to confront all manner of dangers that we, as civilians, can’t or don’t want to engage.

But let’s be realistic: Police officers are not psychiatrists, or zoologists.

We have been enlisting their help in some situations in which they may have no more experience or training than we, ourselves, have.

It’s frightening to imagine what we would do without them, but it is time for us to admit we have been demanding more of them than we should expect them to deliver.

Baltimore is taking a very prudent and long overdue step.

However, we are not Baltimore. We are Rouses Point, Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga, and every place in between.

Baltimore, with a population of 609,032, is the largest city in Maryland – more like New York City than the Village of Saranac Lake. It has resources at is disposal that we in the North Country don’t.

But that doesn’t mean that we as individuals and communities shouldn’t be planning, imagining, devising ways to protect ourselves in new ways.

A pistol or a taser on the hip is not the only appropriate response to an emergency, and we should be figuring out how to acquire or adapt new ways to safeguard against every conceivable crisis.

The BOLA wrap local police are now considering is one new perhaps safer way of detaining suspects.

One day, all Americans will have the right response to all potential mayhem. Police and physical confrontation, as reassuring as they may be to us, are not always the perfect fit for our crisis.

They are our solution now, but we must hope for more-specialized answers in the future.

Baltimore is breaking crucial ground for us all June 1. We impatiently look forward to the day when this region can follow its example.

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Auburn Citizen. May 27, 2021.

Editorial: New York’s ethics commission is far beyond repair

Instead of tinkering with New York’s flawed ethics oversight commission, lawmakers should be working on a process to scrap it altogether and build a new one from scratch.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics was established in 2011 to investigate ethical misconduct, but it could never really be trusted to act as a watchdog for state taxpayers, because its members are all political appointees. The agency’s ineffectiveness has been brought into sharper focus recently, given the questions surrounding conduct by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the number of allies he has on the commission.

Some state lawmakers recently proposed JCOPE be given broader authority to conduct investigations and suggested a reworking of the way in which commissioners are appointed, but critics rightly point out that neither JCOPE nor the Democrats currently in control of the Assembly and Senate have done much of anything to find answers to allegations against Cuomo concerning conflicts of interest, sexual harassment, and the misuse of state resources.

Good government groups have repeatedly called on state leaders to create an independently appointed commission to replace JCOPE. That could be accomplished through a constitutional amendment, but since that can’t be done overnight, it’s important that process starts as quickly as possible.

There is nothing inherently wrong with reforming JCOPE, the suggested tweaks appear to be no more than busywork. Lawmakers are fully aware of how bad things look right now regarding the multiple scandals involving the governor, and they also know that JCOPE is completely lacking in credibility.

Rather than trying to create the appearance of fixing JCOPE, lawmakers should be putting more effort into a concrete plan to replace it.

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Newsday. May 27, 2021.

Editorial: Time to get real on rent relief

Long Islanders are still hurting. An economic pain ripples through the region more than a year after the start of the pandemic.

Too many can’t pay their rent. That, in turn, means landlords across Long Island, large and small, aren’t getting the income they need. For the region to make a full comeback, rent relief has to get into the hands of those who need it.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

A recent Newsday analysis showed that only about 1% of Long Island’s pot of nearly $90 million in federal rent relief actually has reached landlords and tenants. There are many reasons for that, from the bureaucracy of the programs and the lack of clear guidance and rules to the fact that too many tenants haven’t bothered to apply, in part because they’ve been protected by a statewide eviction moratorium.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just this week announced plans for more rent relief — a total of $2.7 billion statewide, with applications for the new funds to be accepted beginning June 1.

That’s good news — but only if tenants, landlords and the community organizations helping them can cut through the red tape. The state must make the process clear and simple, removing as many bureaucratic hurdles as possible, overcoming older programs’ roadblocks and getting the money out the door. State officials say they’re ready with the technology and support systems in place to handle the expected high volume, and that by placing the efforts under the auspices of the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the program will be well-managed.

But questions and complexities remain. The state still has to manage the old pots of money, some from the CARES Act and still more from the first round of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Some towns are waiting for the state, while others are doing it themselves or relying on groups like the Long Island Housing Partnership to navigate the situation. This leaves a potentially confusing maze for tenants and landlords, who need clear direction on how to apply and where.

Even without the bureaucracy, tenants have been hesitant to apply and, according to the state, both tenant and landlord must sign off for rent relief to be issued. The existing eviction moratorium, due to expire Aug. 31, has had unintended consequences. It provides a safety net for tenants, who don’t feel the need to seek rent help, and leaves landlords without the relief they need.

The state should make the August deadline widely known, a move that hopefully would coax tenants to sign off on seeking rent relief right away. It’ll be up to elected officials, advocacy groups and others to encourage renters to apply. Such outreach will be key, so those who qualify know that help is available.

This is a rare moment when the money, and the people who need it, are there. We just need to bring them together.

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New York Daily News. June 2, 2021.

Editorial: Seniors’ moment: Mayor de Blasio makes the right call on senior centers

Some 443 days have passed since the mid-March day in 2020 when Mayor de Blasio announced that senior centers, like nearly every other facet of life here, would close because of COVID. Now, finally, better late than never, these vital hubs, which counter the isolation that all too often accompanies the aged, are joining the city’s reopening.

Since January, as vaccine doses rose and virus cases and deaths dropped, gyms, movie theaters, restaurants and bars turned on the lights and flung the doors open. On Memorial Day, midnight curfews for bars and restaurants lapsed, following the lifting of state face mask mandates and most capacity restrictions.

Yet indefensible, senior centers, vital non-commercial spaces for the New Yorkers most vulnerable to COVID to access services and connect to one another and the wider city, stayed closed. City health officials feared the risks of reopening them outweighed the rewards, even as the overwhelming majority of older New Yorkers got vaccinated.

Finally, Tuesday, de Blasio announced the city will reopen all of its nearly 250 senior centers for indoor activity on June 14, and will allow outdoor gatherings effective immediately. As it should be: The rewards those senior centers provide — companionship, meals, free air conditioning in the hot summer — so clearly outweigh the risks, especially since some 71.7% of New Yorkers age 65 and up have had at least one dose, and 65.5% are fully vaccinated.

Oddly, the city isn’t requiring seniors to be vaccinated to go indoors at the centers. That means, even after June 14, social distancing rules will still be in effect. Seniors who miss hugs or struggle to hear friends when required to stay six feet away from them take the plunge and get their shots, and all senior centers should offer the vaccine on-site.

There’s room for improvement. Black, white and Latino seniors in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens have lower vaccination rates than seniors in other neighborhoods. Get protected, then relax and play some bingo.

END