Editorial Roundup: New York

Advance Media New York. September 28, 2021.

Editorial: Rep. Sherwood Boehlert: a legislator with big ideas and a bigger heart

The death of former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-Utica, last week at age 84 is an occasion to celebrate the spirit of centrism, compromise and service to others he embodied over 24 years representing Central New York in Congress.

That spirit was already flagging when Boehlert, one of the last of New York’s Rockefeller Republicans, decided not to seek a 13th term in 2006.

In an exit interview, he told Washington reporter Mark Weiner: “I came to Capitol Hill 42 years ago, and I have never seen a higher level of partisanship and a lower level of tolerance for the other guy’s point of view.”

If that’s how he felt then, what would Boehlert have said about the poisonous atmosphere in Washington now? What would he make of the 147 fellow Republicans who voted against the constitutionally prescribed certification of the election of Joe Biden as president, even after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop it? Or the collision course Democrats and Republicans have charted over the budget, the debt limit and the infrastructure bill that could shut down the federal government by Friday?

He’d be horrified, we think.

Boehlert’s Washington was different. Where today’s lawmakers legislate by partisan brute force, outside of regular order, Boehlert achieved consequential laws through preparation, persuasion and finesse.

In 1990, Boehlert’s party was in the minority in Congress. He teamed up with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, to amend the Clean Air Act regulating coal plant emissions from Midwestern states that were causing acid rain to fall on the Adirondack Mountains. Thirty years later, Adirondack lakes and rivers are coming back, and so are the fish and birds, to the delight of paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Boehlert stood up to his own party’s efforts to weaken environmental rules. He sounded the alarm about climate change way back in the 1990s, leading two congressional delegations to Antarctica to highlight the threat of a warming planet.

As chair of the House Science Committee, Boehlert championed the American Competitiveness Initiative of 2006. It committed $136 billion over 10 years to increase federal investments in research and development, strengthen education and encourage entrepreneurship. It was his proudest accomplishment in Congress, he told Weiner upon retiring.

Those were legislative home runs. But the congressman, a well-known baseball fanatic, also knew how to play “small ball” for his district, where he returned every weekend to stay in touch with his constituents.

When Boehlert could not prevent the Pentagon from closing Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, he directed federal funding to help create the Griffiss Business and Technology Park and the Air Force Research Laboratory. He persuaded the Clinton administration to move part of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to Rome. More than 1,000 people work there today.

After leaving Congress, Boehlert kept up his work on the environment and continued to preach bipartisanship in Washington. He was a cockeyed optimist about the future.

“I have argued that, with this highly partisan Congress, it has been the moderates’ moment,” Boehlert said in that 2006 interview. “I think for the moderates, our best days are ahead. I’m not saying moderate Republicans. I’m saying moderates.”

That prediction proved to be too optimistic. The current moment favors the fringes, on both left and right. Compromise is for the weak. Comity is out. Vitriol is in. Boehlert’s career is a rebuke to that way of thinking.

In mourning Boehlert, we also mourn a Congress led by a people like him: a legislator with big ideas and an even bigger heart.

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Auburn Citizen. September 28, 2021.

Editorial: State, local coordination necessary to get more shots in more arms

With the number of COVID-19 cases still alarmingly high in Cayuga County and across the state, we urge state and local health officials to prioritize making vaccines widely available to the thousands who will soon be eligible for first-time shots and boosters.

The latest numbers on the virus in Cayuga County are worrisome. More than 100 children in the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES region have tested positive for the virus; the county is set to record more than 1,000 new cases in September alone; and the number of deaths locally since the start of the pandemic recently grew to more than 100.

On the plus side, booster shots have been approved for people 65 and older, health-care workers and those with certain health conditions, and Pfizer may be just weeks away from being able to offer shots for children as young as 5.

We hope there’s going to be better coordination between state and local officials this time vs. the initial demand surge in the later winter and early spring, when it’s fair to say the situation became confusing and chaotic at times. When the vaccine rollouts first started, there were bound to be growing pains as this was an unprecedented effort to mass vaccinate the entire population over the age of 12. This time officials have the benefit of learning from past mistakes, and we hope to see an efficient and orderly process this time.

We have seen some positive steps being taken already. Gov. Kathy Hochul has cleared the way for EMTs to administer shots, and the county health department is looking to hire part-time/temporary support staff for clinics.

In addition to the ongoing effort to reach people who have not yet been vaccinated, health officials on the local level need to get their hands on booster shots for anyone eligible and coordinate the planning to vaccinate thousands of children between 5 and 12 as soon as doses for that age group become available. The state needs to be prepared to ensure the doses get to where they need to be in the most efficient way possible.

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Albany Times Union. September 29, 2021.

Editorial: New York needs a trusted voice

The damage Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Howard Zucker did to the state Department of Health is immeasurable. Time and time again, the former governor and his health commissioner subsumed the department’s integrity to the burnishing of Mr. Cuomo’s reputation — and to their everlasting shame, the men did so even as New York was confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps the most egregious example is the intentional underreporting of nursing home deaths after the controversial mandate requiring that the facilities accept COVID-positive patients. In an effort apparently aimed at limiting any negative impact to the velocity of what was then Mr. Cuomo’s rising star, the administration and Dr. Zucker’s department manipulated COVID-19 data reported to the public, cleansed an official report of accurate numbers and stonewalled state legislators and reporters seeking an honest death count.

That scandal was enough to warrant Mr. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker losing their jobs, but, alas, it wasn’t the end. Those misdeeds were accompanied by the VIP COVID-19 testing afforded to the former governor’s friends and family — a wholly inappropriate and perhaps illegal program that used public resources, including top Health Department officials and state troopers, to hurry samples to and through the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany.

Perhaps the most egregious example is the intentional underreporting of nursing home deaths after the controversial mandate requiring that the facilities accept COVID-positive patients. In an effort apparently aimed at limiting any negative impact to the velocity of what was then Mr. Cuomo’s rising star, the administration and Dr. Zucker’s department manipulated COVID-19 data reported to the public, cleansed an official report of accurate numbers and stonewalled state legislators and reporters seeking an honest death count.

That scandal was enough to warrant Mr. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker losing their jobs, but, alas, it wasn’t the end. Those misdeeds were accompanied by the VIP COVID-19 testing afforded to the former governor’s friends and family — a wholly inappropriate and perhaps illegal program that used public resources, including top Health Department officials and state troopers, to hurry samples to and through the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany.

Perhaps the most egregious example is the intentional underreporting of nursing home deaths after the controversial mandate requiring that the facilities accept COVID-positive patients. In an effort apparently aimed at limiting any negative impact to the velocity of what was then Mr. Cuomo’s rising star, the administration and Dr. Zucker’s department manipulated COVID-19 data reported to the public, cleansed an official report of accurate numbers and stonewalled state legislators and reporters seeking an honest death count.

That scandal was enough to warrant Mr. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker losing their jobs, but, alas, it wasn’t the end. Those misdeeds were accompanied by the VIP COVID-19 testing afforded to the former governor’s friends and family — a wholly inappropriate and perhaps illegal program that used public resources, including top Health Department officials and state troopers, to hurry samples to and through the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany.

The importance of that should be obvious. At a time when mask and vaccine mandates and other pandemic measures have become deeply politicized and are viewed with suspicion by a significant chunk of the public, it is all the more crucial for New Yorkers to believe their health commissioner is looking out for their best interests. At the least, New Yorkers should be able to trust that data coming from the department is accurate.

Last week, Dr. Zucker at last submitted his letter of resignation. While he will stay on until a replacement is found, the onus is on Ms. Hochul to find a suitable replacement.

What’s needed is an agency leader who will put public health ahead of political expediency, a commissioner who will remain determinedly independent.

What’s required is a person deserving of trust as the state confronts the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and public health concerns yet to come.

What New York needs, in other words, is a health commissioner who will succeed where Dr. Zucker failed.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. September 28, 2021.

Editorial: MANDATE Facility numbers a shining star

As many of the health-care facilities in this region cope with the New York state vaccine mandate for employees and staff that went into effect Monday, we do want to point out a shining star in what has been a tough three weeks: the WCA Home in Fredonia. Earlier this month, one-third of the ç had yet to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the past weekend, however, the numbersåΩ to families of relatives at the assisted living facility, there were down to only one staff member who had yet to receive a dose.

“We are so happy to be keeping most of our wonderful team who have been with us through all of this craziness,” the letter from Marnie Ulkins, assistant administrator, said. “We have truly come to rely on each other and know we have each other’s backs. It is very nice to be able to keep that strong team together and keep searching for some dedicated people to add to it.”

We wish every health facility has the same luck as the one on Temple Street in the village. Teamwork in caring for others is so important.

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