Editorial Roundup: New York

Advance Media New York. June 16, 2022.

Editorial: NY election ‘citizen auditors’ are playing a dangerous game

Shame on former state Senate candidate Angi Renna for lending her reputation to a shadowy fringe group challenging the results of New York’s 2020 election based on fuzzy math and false assumptions. We once thought enough of her to endorse her candidacy. We emphatically object to her activities on behalf of a group claiming election fraud in New York.

Renna recently hosted a public meeting in Liverpool where a presenter identified only as “Art” conducted an online seminar claiming election “irregularities” in 15 New York counties, including Onondaga County.

New York Citizens Audit wants the whole election tossed out. But they don’t offer any evidence of election fraud. They won’t say who they are, where they live or where they get their funding.

They present “a series of calculations and comparisons of numbers that the group says show some possible funny business among New York’s 13.5 million enrolled voters in 2020,” Washington reporter Mark Weiner reported. “They didn’t show details of their work to election officials or seek out possible reasons why their numbers don’t line up.”

Take the 10,289 active voters whose birthdates are listed as January 1, 1850. The audit group derisively calls them “Lincoln voters” — for Abraham Lincoln, get it? — and wants those votes disqualified. If the “citizen auditors” had cared to ask, they would know that before 1974, New York voters only needed to state their age to cast a ballot. January 1. 1850, became a placeholder for their birthdates when voting records were computerized in 2007.

We won’t further amplify the audit group’s wackadoodle claims. You can read all about them in Weiner’s story, along with the perfectly logical explanations for the oddities they view as suspicious. Weiner’s careful reporting shows how groups like this create disinformation: Take a kernel of truth, twist its meaning and plant the seed of doubt in the minds of people who are gullible, feckless or both.

The ultimate goal of New York Citizens Audit, and similar efforts in other states, is to destroy our confidence in free and fair elections. If candidates and their supporters refuse to accept the will of the voters, elections become meaningless. Democracy is over.

New York Citizen Audit’s rickety effort is child’s play compared to ex-President Donald Trump’s elaborate attempts to overturn the 2020 election, culminating in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The House Select Committee on Jan. 6 is laying it all out for the American people to see. If only the Americans who need to see it — the people who believe Trump’s “Big Lie” about a stolen election — were watching.

Meanwhile, election deniers are running, and winning, in primaries for Congress and for offices that oversee elections. This could have dire consequences.

We don’t claim New York’s election apparatus is perfect. But to claim it is riddled with fraud is an outright lie, one that undermines the sanctity of the vote and the public’s faith in government. Groups like Citizens Audit New York, and enablers like Angi Renna, are playing a dangerous game.

___

Albany Times Union. June 19, 2022.

Editorial: Reform, this is not

The state’s new ethics commission looks far too much like the old ineffective one.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislators replaced one politically appointed ethics commission with another and seemed to hope everyone would just accept it as reform. Sadly, some government watchdog groups are doing just that.

The acceptance of the new ethics body, however grudging, and the involvement of law school deans from around the state in the new process may lend it an air of legitimacy. That doesn’t make it progress.

The commission will replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which was created by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature in 2011. JCOPE was a tool of state officials from the start, with a board appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and dominated by the governor’s picks. Unusual rules — ostensibly intended to prevent political witch hunts — allowed minorities of commission members to block investigations. And secrecy provisions kept the public from seeing to what degree factions within JCOPE were able to protect their political patrons and allies. But JCOPE’s failure to pursue high-level corruption spoke for itself.

The new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, which is scheduled to take over on July 8, started out as an intriguing concept from Gov. Hochul, who proposed having a board composed of deans from the New York’s 15 state-accredited law schools, or their designees. But by the time that proposal made it through the meat grinder of negotiations with legislative leaders, the result looked an awful lot like the old sausage with new packaging. Rather than an independent board, this 11-member body will be selected by — wait for it — the governor and legislative leaders.

To be fair, there are some noteworthy differences: The governor gets fewer appointees — three of the 11 instead of six of the 14 on JCOPE; the state comptroller and attorney general also make one appointment each; and the law school deans will vet the appointees.

The process for vetting potential commission members was heralded last week as a significant advance in public integrity, but it fails to address what was the fundamental problem with JCOPE and is likely to be with its successor. The new process calls for candidates to undergo a rigorous background check and be evaluated by a nominating committee composed of the deans. The committee will be able to reject any who are found to lack “undisputed honesty, integrity and character.”

That’s all well and good, but the problem with JCOPE was not that politicians were appointing felons and other ne’er-do-wells. They appointed mostly accomplished, upstanding New Yorkers — and also loyalists. Perhaps not all of them, but certainly enough to make JCOPE into a lapdog rather than a watchdog.

We just saw how claims of independence don’t make a commission independent in the wretched performance of the so-called Independent Redistricting Commission that was tasked with drawing new legislative and congressional district maps. The commission — appointed by the Legislature, sound familiar? — deadlocked along party lines and tossed the ball to the Democrat-controlled Legislature, which drew gerrymandered maps that have now been declared unconstitutional by courts. It was a sham.

And so is this. This new commission can dress itself up in all the rules it wants, good government groups can marvel all they care to, but to borrow from a morality tale: This body has no clothes.

___

Jamestown Post-Journal. June 22, 2022.

Editorial: Hochul Should Hold Off On Penalties For Nursing Overtime

Legislation to lessen the mandatory overtime worked by area nursing home nurses — and possibly lead to penalties paid by nursing home owners– is awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.

The bill hasn’t yet been presented to the governor, but A.8874/S.8063 passed both houses of the state Legislature as the legislative session came to a close. In our opinion, Hochul should veto the bill.

That doesn’t mean it’s OK for nurses to work an endless series of double shifts each week. Nursing is a valuable profession in our society, but nurses should be able to have a life outside of work. Lessening nurses’ overtime is a worthy goal.

Medicaid reimbursements haven’t paid for minimum levels of care for quite some time. Then, in April, state regulations passed by the legislature in 2021 requiring at least 3.5 hours of care per resident per day took effect. That bill — which is the subject of a lawsuit — forces nursing homes to either hire additional workers or decrease their number of residents. The state’s decision to limit overtime by nurses places many nursing homes between a rock and a hard place while balancing over the Grand Canyon on a piece of flimsy string.

The triple-whammy with which the state is hitting health care providers will end up hurting patients and the elderly. Some providers are using overtime to avoid hiring additional employees, but others legitimately can’t find workers and can’t provide basic care without nurses working overtime.

If New York was serious about protecting workers and residents, the state would have increased the Medicaid reimbursement for nursing home residents so that nursing homes could afford to hire more employees and offer a higher starting wage to attract more workers. Legislators did not choose that option. Instead, they made a bad situation worse with yet another regulation that makes life harder on nursing homes and which could make life worse for the senior citizens living in our nursing homes.

___

New York Post. June 19, 2022.

Editorial: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney gets a primary challenge he sorely deserves

We’re no fans of ultra-left state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, but she sure has picked a fat target in challenging Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary for the 17th District: He’s the most arrogant, self-serving incumbent in all New York.

His most recent low was to not even notify another incumbent, Rep. Mondaire Jones, before declaring he’d run in the district that the new, fair electoral maps (required after the courts nixed Democrats’ bid to gerrymander Republicans into insignificance) put them both in, even though the new district had more of Jones’ old one than it did Maloney’s.

Then again, Maloney played a big role in that misbegotten gerrymander effort that so backfired for Dems, putting not just Jones and Maloney in conflict, but also senior Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.

Way back on Nov. 30, 2020, he told Politico, “We must win the redistricting war,” as he prepared to take over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And he plainly encouraged the Legislature to try to do just that, as its plan was to cut Republicans down to just four House seats in New York from the eight or so any fair map would allow.

That gambit was a blatant violation of the state Constitution’s rules for redistricting, and of the clearly expressed views of most New Yorkers in multiple ballot-measure votes.

But Maloney’s sleaze goes back further: He’s also the guy who ran for two offices at the same time back in 2018, entering the primary for state attorney general even as he stayed in the race for his House seat.

As we noted then, “The wealthy three-term incumbent plainly figures he can take a shot at a better job without risking his current one. So what if it’s a slap in the face of his constituents?” And a gamble that risked handing the swing congressional district to the Republicans.

He also spent cash from his federal campaign fund on the state race, a legally dubious move that disadvantaged only his fellow Democrats — though Tish James wound up winning handily anyway.

END