Editorial Roundup: New York

New York Post. May 17, 2022.

Editorial: NY’s leaders still in denial on COVID reality

How long will it take for New York’s leaders to catch up with evolving COVID reality?

The state is spending taxpayer cash to distribute 16.5 million tests, which at this point are utterly pointless as any sort of population-wide effort to limit the spread.

Testing makes sense in limited circumstances, e.g. as a condition of visiting a nursing home full of higher-risk seniors. But more generally, by the time someone tests positive, they’ve most likely interacted with others; slightly broader testing (which is all a few million extra tests allows) won’t limit the spread.

Yes, statewide hospitalizations with COVID are up from their March 31 low of 817 to 2,497 on Sunday, but roughly half (or a bit more) of those are people hospitalized for something else who simply test positive. And deaths with COVID hit 30 that day, in a state of over 19 million.

If you have symptoms, stay home; the rest of the household should get tested; that’s about it. The crisis is over.

That’s clearly true even in the city, though health czar Dr. Ashwin Vasan put Gotham on “high COVID alert” Tuesday, urging everyone (especially the most vulnerable) to mask up indoors, etc.

Huh? Per his own Health Department’s COVID-tracking site, New York City saw 3,674 “confirmed and probable” cases on Saturday, down from a clear peak of 4,240 four days before.

The seven-day average of new COVID hospitalizations was 61, up from Friday’s 58 but down from a peak of 94 on May 5 (and, again, half of those are just people testing positive after hitting the hospital for another reason).

The city’s moving average of “confirmed and probable” coronavirus deaths has been hovering in a flatline range of four to seven a day for weeks. And the vast majority of those are older, have multiple comorbidities and/or are unvaccinated. The now locally dominant BA.2.12.1 strain of Omicron is proving more infectious but (plainly) even less deadly (both of which are how viruses evolve).

Mayor Eric Adams is dutifully masking up himself, but at least is sensible enough to hold off on mandating anything. We hope that’s a sign that he’s getting closer to being done with Vasan’s alarmism: These ridiculous, baseless alerts do nothing but spread needless fear.

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Jamestown Post Journal. May 17, 2022.

Editorial: The Hate In Buffalo Shooter’s Heart Is The Frightening Part Of A Tragic Day

Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo is the closest such horrific acts have come to Chautauqua County.

Today, we stand with our neighbors in Buffalo in our grief for the 10 people whose lives ended during a routine trip to the grocery store or a routine day at work. Many in our county feel agony, anger and bewilderment, wondering how a person so young can be so consumed with hate and fear to lash out in such ways.

Some will focus on the weapon of choice — a legally purchased AR-15 rifle with a high-capacity magazine reportedly purchased out-of-state even though the shooter was subjected to a psychological exam roughly a year ago. Despite already strict gun laws, weapons continue to find their ways into the hands of those with hate in their heart. And while we will certainly discuss how appropriate or necessary it is to buy and sell such weapons, it is the hate that should draw our attention here. It is the hate that fueled Saturday’s shooting that is truly frightening.

The shooter said in a 180-page screed that he was inspired by a past shooter and their belief in “the great replacement theory” that theorizes white people are being diminished and violence should be used to purge other races from society. It is the sort of despicable garbage being spread in the far reaches of the internet that somehow fills a void in people looking for something to give their lives purpose.

We will spend a lot of time in the coming weeks talking about what happened this weekend in Buffalo. We may not agree on gun control or the legality of assault weapons, but we should be able to agree that our country is big enough for people of all races, colors and religions to coexist. We should all be able to agree that the hate fermenting in our nation is just as frightening as the tools domestic terrorists use.

Self-styled patriots like the Buffalo shooter or anyone who targets their neighbors based on their race, religion or sex should remember the most treasured of our nation’s founding tenets — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those words, written by our Founding Fathers nearly 246 years ago, are the ideals we must cling to — not the sort of hate- and fear-filled muck that fuels terrorists both foreign and domestic.

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Auburn Citizen. May 18, 2022.

Editorial: Time running out on maps for Congress, Senate

Since the state Court of Appeals threw out the state Legislature’s congressional and state Senate district maps over blatant gerrymandering, new maps have emerged that pose problems for Auburn and Cayuga County, and immediate feedback is now the only recourse to having any changes made.

The special master charged with redrawing the maps has put Cayuga County in a single congressional district, however it would cut the county off from the central New York area that it’s so vitally interconnected with.

The district would frankly be terrible for Cayuga County in that it essentially takes the universally criticized district proposal from the Democratic Legislature that had the northern half of the county in a massive district stretching from Buffalo area to the North Country and adds the southern half of the county. There’s no way a single member of Congress could effectively represent this district and all of its divergent priorities. Moreover, it ignores the historical reality that the Auburn area is strongly tied to the greater Syracuse area, with considerable infrastructure planning, economic development, health care systems and more connected.

The proposed state Senate district map would also be a step backward for the county by putting residents in disparate areas of the state unrelated to the central New York region. The county is currently split into three districts, but all of them are in the central New York or Finger Lakes region. If the court-appointed special master’s state Senate map is approved, the county will be no longer be connected to central New York and the Finger Lakes, but rather lumped in with Jefferson and Oswego counties and a portion of Lewis County.

We urge all of our elected leaders and as many residents as possible to send feedback by end of the day Wednesday to the state Supreme Court overseeing this process. The email is bwise@nycourts.gov. It’s the only shot we have at getting these maps tweaked to ensure we have true representation in Washington and Albany through 2032.

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Advance Media New York. May 12, 2022.

Editorial: Students have free speech rights, too. NY should protect them

We renew our support for the Student Journalist Free Speech Act, a bill in the New York state Legislature that would protect young people’s right to express themselves in school-sponsored publications.

School administrators exercise great power over what students can say in school newspapers, yearbooks and online publications under guise of keeping order. That power can be misused to censor material that might embarrass the school, and to stifle free and open discussion of controversial issues affecting kids and their school communities.

This bill (A04402/S02958), sponsored by Assembly Member Donna Lupardo, D-Binghamton, and Sen. Brian Kavanagh, D-Brooklyn, gives student journalists the right to determine the content of school-sponsored media, in consultation with their teacher/advisers. It instructs administrators to keep their hands off unless student speech is libelous, an unwarranted invasion of privacy, incites students to violence or law-breaking, violates school policies, or disrupts orderly school operations.

In other words, casting the school in a poor light is not reason enough to censor student speech.

School censorship is real but it rarely breaks into public view. An exception happened locally earlier this year when a Tully High School administrator attempted to prevent publication of a student’s essay about being bullied because he is gay. The student, Tyler Johnson, broadcast the incident over social media, attracting a national audience. After a furor, the school relented and allowed Tyler’s essay to be published in a school newsletter.

Schools have great latitude to tell students how to behave while on school grounds (and sometimes even away from school). But as Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the landmark 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

As school censorship controversies erupt around the nation, New York has an opportunity to join 15 other states in protecting student free speech through law. After years of dithering, the Legislature should get off the dime and pass this bill.

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Albany Times Union. May 15, 2022.

Editorial: N.Y.’s voting rights gaps

In its own ways, New York hinders voting rights. Lawmakers must fix this.

Looking around the country at blatant voter suppression efforts and even attempts to pass laws to let legislatures override election outcomes that aren’t to their liking, New Yorkers might be tempted to feel a bit smug about their embrace of voting rights.

They may want to hold that hubris a bit — especially in the Capital Region, the site of some of the most glaring electoral abuses in the state.

Those abuses included a history of racial gerrymandering by Democrats in the Albany County Legislature that resulted in three lawsuits over the past 25 years; the creation of polling places in Rensselaer County that were purposely inconvenient for traditionally Democratic-leaning minority voters in Troy; and voter intimidation, again in Rensselaer County, where authorities threatened to share voter registration data with immigration authorities.

Around the state, notes the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, some communities perpetuate at-large elections that tend to keep minority neighborhoods from gaining representation. Others, particularly on Long Island, limit polling places in minority areas, resulting in long lines and discouraging waits at the polls.

To its credit, New York has in recent years improved some of its voting laws, allowing early voting, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, automatic voter registration for people who deal with the state Health and Motor Vehicles departments, campus polling places, and easy transferring of voter registration when a person moves.

The state, though, needs to do more, and it has an opportunity to do it right now. Waiting in the Legislature is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York, named for the late U.S. representative and icon of the Civil Rights movement. If the bill’s name sounds familiar, it’s similar to federal legislation that failed in the U.S. Senate in the face of Republican opposition and a refusal by several Democrats to support changing filibuster rules, even to protect such fundamental rights.

The New York act would, among other things, require any jurisdiction in the state with a history of voter suppression or other forms of discrimination to clear changes to it voting practices with the state attorney general or a court. It would establish new protections against voter intimidation, deception, and obstruction, and direct courts to interpret election laws in a pro-voter way, rather than disenfranchise them with legalistic gotchas.

With elections for statewide and legislative posts coming later this year, the Legislature needs to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York before the session ends in early June. It should also set in motion, again, the process of changing the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting, a worthy cause that was undone by a Republican campaign of misinformation. Votes by two successive legislatures are needed to put an amendment on the ballot; a first vote this year could allow voters to reconsider it in 2023.

This would mark some of the strongest voting rights protection in the country -- surely a better claim to fame than being a poster child for voting rights abuses. That’s a title we should gladly cede to some other deserving state. And an example New York should set for the nation.

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