Editorial Roundup: New York

Jamestown Post-Journal. October 20, 2021.

Editorial: ESPRI Funding May Have Ended, But Local Fight Against Poverty Has Not

The Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative did a lot of good in the Jamestown area, and the seeds the state money allowed local officials to plant can bear fruit for quite some time into the future.

Created after Jamestown received $1 million from the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, the local task force was created by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County to administer the program.

ESPRI has been a success in Jamestown. Six of the original seven programs created locally are still in operation with support from local foundations, federal grants or incorporating the programs into existing local operations. Local programs focused on helping people secure and retain employment; supporting employers and employees; educational preparation; and family and community support for employment.

According to the executive summary of Jamestown’s ESPRI program, 53% of the individuals impacted were female, 19% were Hispanic, 62% were working-age adults ages 26-64. The average cost per household served was $2,533; 214 individuals secured employment; 101 have enrolled in education, certification and training programs; 360 engaged with a coach, mentor or support staff identifying goals and steps to move them out of poverty or ALICE; $69,104 in emergency assistance to 205 households, primarily for barriers related to childcare, transportation and housing;14 local employers whose “at-risk” employees were supported by ESPRI programs; and 156 “at-risk” employees who retained their employment.

Amy Rohler, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director, is absolutely correct when she says the end of state poverty reduction money shouldn’t mean the end of a community group that has been working on poverty reduction programs.

The program may have ended, but poverty has not. There is still a lot of work to be done — but now we have to find resources here in our own backyard.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. October 14, 2021.

Editorial: ‘NO ONE FORGETS’ Local book is extraordinary tribute

A book’s sixth edition does not happen without dedication. Last week, the OBSERVER noted the latest “No One Forgets” is available locally.

The book, which documents all of the servicemen from Chautauqua County who have lost their lives in our nations wars, contains the electronic files on DVD. Additionally, there are five songs and a music video written and performed by local son Sean Patrick McGraw of Nashville, Tenn. Copies of the book on DVD or thumb drive are also available without the hard copy of the book.

Those chiefly responsible for documenting the information is Richard Titus, John Kuzdale and John Fedyszyn of Dunkirk and George H Burns III and Ryan Deas of Fredonia.

Burns noted the project began in 2011 as a result of research he was doing for the annual Memorial Day service, and similar work Titus was involved in. For history buffs, the book is a keepsake that documents the efforts of local heroes.

Besides Papaya Arts and Kirk’s Jewelers, copies of the book are available at the Dunkirk Lighthouse and the Dunkirk Historical Society.

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Albany Times Union. October 18, 2021.

Editorial: Cleaning house

In 2015, the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo started a program they said was intended to promote integrity in government and bolster the public’s trust. Now, Gov. Kathy Hochul hopes to promote integrity and bolster trust by doing away with the same program.

Under the “ethics, risk and compliance initiative,” the executive chamber embedded attorneys in two dozen state agencies. In theory, they were there to protect the state from liability by making sure agencies didn’t trip themselves up on an ethics violation. In practice, they were there to protect Mr. Cuomo.

These special counsels helped Mr. Cuomo suppress information that was potentially harmful to his reputation. The former governor was notorious for wanting to control the narrative — as we saw last year with the manipulation of nursing home COVID data. Loyalists embedded in agencies could help keep scandals out of sight and public records under wraps by flagging potentially troublesome Freedom of Information Law requests, some of which took months — or years — to be answered under the Cuomo administration.

These counsels were the governor’s eyes and ears, a web of watchers that all led back to Mr. Cuomo.

Gov. Hochul is sweeping up that web, in line with her pledge to open up government. It’s encouraging to see her putting the state’s house in order.

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Advance Media New York. October 17, 2021.

Editorial: Slow down Onondaga County redistricting for transparency’s sake

Onondaga County’s reapportionment commission is in too big of a hurry to draw new voting maps. It should slow down and open up the process to make sure county residents understand what the commission is doing and can examine and question their work before it becomes law.

After all, what they decide now will dictate the political landscape of Onondaga County for the next decade.

Under the county charter, new district boundaries must be drawn every 10 years to reflect changes in population. The new district maps must be in place for the 2023 election.

So what’s behind the commission’s aggressive, three-week timeline for drawing new maps before legislators face the voters on Nov. 2? It feels like a power grab by the Republicans in charge of the process, even before we see any of the census data or drafts of maps.

County Executive Ryan McMahon, the leader of the party, is unapologetic. If Democrats want to control the legislature, and thus redistricting, they should run better candidates and win more elections, he told the editorial board last week.

Fair enough — if you believe the districts were drawn fairly the last time around. But if redistricting only comes down to flexing one’s political muscle, Republicans should stop pretending to care about “a fair and open process with increased public participation and access.”

Legislators said they cared about it last year, when the GOP-led legislature passed a resolution with those exact words in the title. It was an answer to Democrats’ proposal for a nonpartisan, independent redistricting commission — a proposal the Republican majority voted down. In their resolution, GOP legislators listed a series of recommendations (the word “strongly” appears six times) expressing their intention to improve the process, to bar partisans and elected officials from sitting on the commission, and to prescribe six public hearings, with two of them held in the city of Syracuse.

That’s how it started. Here’s how it’s going.

Legislature Chairman David Knapp, R-LaFayette, proposed establishing the commission on a Friday night and brought the measure to a floor vote the following Tuesday. It passed along party lines, guaranteeing Republicans would control four out of six appointments. Three days later, the six members of the commission were named: Knapp, the county’s two elections commissioners, McMahon’s campaign lawyer, a bar owner and a SUNY ESF geography professor. Five days after that, the commission held its first meeting, where Kevin Hulslander, the lawyer, laid out a timeline that called for cramming four public hearings into two days, and handing maps to the legislature by Nov. 3 for a vote Nov. 12. When we reminded McMahon of the legislature’s desire for six hearings, he asked Hulslander to schedule one more public hearing, to be held in the evening and in the city.

Still, that’s a timeline designed for the bare minimum of transparency and deliberation. The public deserves more of both.

Hulslander also was too quick to brush off Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny’s concern that the commission’s short timeline would compromise his and his Republican counterpart’s oversight of the November election. Czarny has a point, even if Republicans don’t want to hear it from a frequent antagonist.

The rush to redraw maps also may cut short a debate over how the districts should be drawn.

McMahon favors keeping the approach from the last reapportionment 10 years ago — “metropolitan” districts that lump city and suburban voters together. The county executive believes that has made suburban lawmakers more responsive to city concerns. City residents might say their communities were divided and voting power diluted. And, in a new development, Knapp now says the metropolitan strategy was a mistake. We need a full public airing of the options.

McMahon believes voters have higher priorities than redistricting. We think he underestimates their concerns about fair representation. At the local, state and federal level, it’s simply wrong for the party in control (in this case, the Republicans) to strong-arm the reapportionment process — and hope voters won’t notice or care.

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